Educational Consultant Warns of College Spin

So I’m here on the campus of my alma mater, Dartmouth College. I’m here for a reunion and it’s been a fun, nostalgia-filled weekend, and I always enjoy coming up here. And one of the things I like to do when I come here, too, is to connect with some of the students that I’ve counseled in the past. This morning I had coffee with, she’s a freshman and she’s a tour guide here on campus. And we got to talking about being a tour guide and how all that works, and we were also talking about the fraternity system, so I was asking her, “So what is the admissions saying to students when they’re coming on campus and want to know about the fraternity system and how many students are really a part of it?” And the party line statistic is 50%. Now, that’s accurate, but a little misleading, perhaps. Because that makes it seems like the statistic is much lower than the number, which is 68% of eligible students are in the Greek system. So 2/3 of students.

The reason there’s a difference between these two statistics is because freshmen are not allowed to be in the Greek system. You rush in your second or sophomore year. So it’s true that if you take the entire student body, you have only 50% of students that are in the system. But then when sophomore year happens, 2/3 of your cohort is going to be rushing for the Greek system. So it’s one of those things where it’s like where are they bending the truth? Are they bending the truth? No, they’re not, they’re stating a fact, but they’re also giving you a statistic that is perhaps going to make Dartmouth a little bit more palatable to you if you’re thinking the fraternity system may be not what you want, or if you’re worried about it, they want to make it seem less of a force in the social life on campus. It’s a force, there’s no getting around it that the Greek system is a very strong aspect of social life on campus.

Why do I bring this up? Not so much to criticize my alma mater, I love the place, but it does have some warts and one of them, one could say, maybe, is the fraternity system. But I think what I want to point out most for anyone who is thinking about going to college is remind yourself that the admissions office is the sales and marketing division of the college. And so when you’re walking around the campus, what you hear from the tour guides and what you hear in those information sessions is going to be the rosy picture. It’s going to be the positive spin on anything that might be a little bit controversial or, “Let’s cover up those warts a little bit more.” And if you really want to know the facts you’ve got to do some research on your own. You’ve got to be looking at data on the government web sites or on CollegeData. If something’s important to you, you need to get kind of underneath whatever you’re being told by the admissions office. It’s not a fib, but it’s also not necessarily a full understanding of the truth. So colleges have stories to tell. And you want to listen to them, but then again you want to verify. As Ronald Reagan used to say, “Trust, but verify.”

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