How to Visit College Without Leaving Town – Get an Electronic Copy of The Students’ Intelligence Report

By Sam Rosensohn

TIME. I bet if you had four more free hours daily, you still couldn’t get to everything on the to-do list let alone find time to make the vital college visits.

So I offer two timesaving suggestions that will let you see a string of colleges without pulling out of the driveway.

Start reading college newspapers on-line. School newspapers offer a broad look at college life and focus on the issues that are pertinent to students, staff and administrators.

School newspapers offer portraits of campus life that have been known to make school administrators’ teeth grind, or simply reflect an ordinary day on campus.

So let’s take a look at Columbia University’s Spectator, a daily, student-run newspaper that on this particular morning didn’t have a line of campus-shattering news to report.

The lead story was about a visiting professor from MIT, Noam Chomsky, who spoke against the war in Iraq to a standing-room-only crowd of students.

Chomsky, who first became known for reinventing the field of linguistics when Eisenhower was in the White House, challenged America’s right to preemptive strikes and staff writer Nick Kalagge’s account put me on campus.

From there I clicked on that day’s editorial written by staff writer Rachael King, who challenged the premise of Tom Wolfe’s recent book, I am Charlotte Simmons, which according to King oversimplifies college life.

Here’s how King began her editorial:

Sex! Sex! It was in the air along with the nitrogen and the oxygen! The whole campus was humid with it! Tumid with it! Lubricated with it! Gorged with it! tingling with it! in a state of around-the clock arousal with it! Rutrutrutrutrutrutrutrut.

Sound familiar? It should, because according to Tom Wolfe … it is an accurate approximation of college life.

King concluded,  “If Wolfe were to accurately depict college life, he would have to start from a radically different premise. Students, the same kids who can seem so fixated on status or sex, actually have professional and intellectual goals they want to realize.”

I clicked and read a story about a Columbia student who won Jeopardy. “I can’t swim and Columbia has a swim test requirement to graduate,” Lily Wang, CC ’06, told “Jeopardy” host Alex Trebek.

Wang, who finished with a total of $30,000, said she casually signed up because a friend, Rob Becker, CC ’O6, had done the same.

“I didn’t really think that either of us had a chance to be picked,” she said. “Rob and I watch ‘Jeopardy’ almost every day, so that’s really the only preparation I had.”

But what about the swim test? She wondered if it didn’t date back to the Revolutionary War when Columbia wanted to ensure that its students could swim across the Hudson in case of British attack.

She also noted that students are supposed to be able to build a contraption to cross the river and are hence exempt form the swim test.

I took a quick look at several news articles that noted more about what happened the day before on the Manhattan campus.

There was an article on a political science professor who was to be honored by The Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Start – one of Japan’s highest civilian awards given to 12 Americans.

There was a story about tempers flaring the night before at a meeting of the Community Board 9 Housing Committee. Area residents were suspicious that Columbia might be moving forward with plans to purchase more residential buildings.

Community members stormed out of the meeting after learning that buildings at 3285 and 3287 Broadway will no longer be under the West Harlem Group Assistance Program.

There was a story about a former PLO terrorist who spoke on campus the day before and who now advocated for Israel saying, “I am not ashamed to stand in front of you and say I am Walid Shoebat and I used to be a Palestinian terrorist.”

The headline, Uncovering Gene-Power Columbia Researchers Work to Understand Alzheimer’s caught my eye. Researchers at Columbia had identified two locations on the human genome that might carry genes that increase the risk of developing late-onset Alzheimer’s disease. The discovery, the Spectator noted, could bring researchers closer to developing a cure.

The arts and entertainment section had stories on fashion, food, theater, movies, books and music. And by all accounts, this was a pretty slow news day. Nothing really out of the ordinary had happened on campus the day before.

Had it, the paper would not have led with a story that recounted an anti-war lecture.  Think of college newspapers as the students’ intelligence report. They aim to break school news. They aim to let their readership know what’s happening on campus.

I said I was going to offer a second suggestion, but knowing how pressed for time everyone is, I’ll save it for another day.

Sam Rosensohn is the founder of College Planning Partnerships, which offers prep classes for the SAT and helps students to prepare for college and write college essays. He can be reached in Clinton at 860-664-9857 or at