The Taftese Guide to Choosing the Right College for You

April is the month of getting accepted to (or rejected from) colleges. For me, it is a time of nostalgia (and procrastination - thank you, baseball), as this will be the first April since 1998 that I am not awaiting acceptance letters from universities.

Two of my cousins are seniors in high school, and are awaiting the Holy Envelopes from such prestigious universities as Duke, Boston College and Katie 'n' Kai's Kollege and Glasses in Under an Hour.

My brother is 17 and has begun to research universities that he may want to attend. So for the benefit of my kin and all of our college-bound readers, I present: The Taftese Guide to Choosing the right College for You!

Myth: College is about learning.
Fact: College is about spending your parents' money.

With so many colleges out there, it can be hard to know which one will be right for you. A good way to narrow your choices for colleges is cost. Let's face it, it's your parents who are going to be picking up most of the tab. Parents are not made of money (if you are from north suburban Chicago, you may skip this paragraph). There are going to be some places that you probably won't be able to afford (Kuwait's Oil Tycoon University costs upwards of $1.8 billion per semester).

Find out how much money your parents make. Compare your parents' income with that of your friends' parents. Ostracize your poorest friend. You don't want to be hanging around his broke ass. Before you know it, he'll be hitting you up for cash. Besides, you never know when you'll catch "lower caste" disease.

Parents, now is the time to be frank with your children. When they ask you how much your annual income is, divide it by six and tell them that number. Remember, they're going to milk you for every red cent you're worth if it's the last thing they do.

Students, when you have narrowed schools down to fit within your budget, you are ready for the next step. If you are lucky enough to have rather wealthy parents, attend only Stanford or Boston University.

Myth: It is not necessary to apply to very many schools if you know what you're looking for.
Fact: You should apply to as many schools as humanly possible.

After all of the schools I applied to, my acceptance rate was about 60%. I applied to 100 schools. 50 my freshman year, 50 more my freshman (transfer) year.

The reason you apply to so many schools is so that you have options. What if you only got into one school? Then you'd have to go there and you'd spend the next four years of your life wondering if you should be going elsewhere. Questioning fate does not mix well into the college scene, especially if you mix beer with it.

What if you only get into two schools? Then all you have to do is flip a coin! That's no fun! Don't you want hours of painful deliberation? Of course you do! The way you should decide which schools you're going to apply to is to divide them into the three traditional categories: "Safety," "50-50," and "Stretch." This will help you to prioritize when those letters come a-flooding in. For example, my list looked like this my senior year in high school:

Safety Schools

U. of Missouri

50-50 Schools

Boston U.
Indiana U.
U. of Iowa

Stretch Schools

Washington University
Cornell University
UC - Berkley
U of. Michigan
U of. Illinois
U of Wisconsin
Stephen's College
Colorado College
Cornell College
Boston College
Columbia U.
U. of Arkansas
Kansas U.
Kansas State U.
Illinois State U.
Northern Illinois U.
Southern Illinois U.
UC - Santa Clara
UC - Irvine
Southwestern Missouri State
Williams College
Denver U.
U. of Texas
U. of Virginia
UNC - Chapel Hill
U of Washington
University of Chicago

Myth: Prestige doesn't matter; what is most important is your happiness.
Fact: Prestige is everything.

Some folks say that college is what you make of it. To those folks, I say Phooey!

George W. Bush got into Harvard, got C's and snorted coke for four years, and look where he is now (the White House, moron)!

The old saying "if you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything" doesn't account for squat at a university. What does count for squat is who you know. Become good friends with all of your professors. Even if they tell you to get out of their office. Even if they tell you to stop following you home. Even if they tell you to remove the tap from their phone and to stop harassing their children at the local elementary school. Even if they threaten to get a restraining order in place on you. They might not admit it at first, but take it from a seasoned college man, if there's one thing professors love, it's persistence. Besides, they'll give in after they realize how much damage you can do from 500 feet away!

After your new prestigious professor friend helps you get a great job, you are down the road to success and therefore happiness. You will be sleeping on piles of cash and Mercedes-Benzes. Whoever said money can't buy happiness has never blown their nose with a $100 bill. They beat the shit out of that Puffs bull crap any day of the week.

9 April 2001