College recruiters and the battle for the American mind


For the last six months, college recruiters have been fighting for a piece of my daughter’s evolving, mostly distracted teenage mind. They desperately want her to apply to college.

I’ve tried my best to make her apply with my constant nagging. She finally looked at three colleges, chose none and the rest are in a cluttered inbox.

Recruiters across the U.S. have been trying hard to lure this young American mind to join the hallowed halls of our shared $1.2 trillion debt trap. The first to approach were recruiters from giant public universities touting the words access, innovation and entrepreneurship. Little did they know that they were trying to reach a teenager whose mind is wired to  Drake’s Hotline Bling.

The public universities offered her a huge platter, like the over-sized menu at Chinese fast food restaurants.  Her options are just unlimited: she can study, dream, experiment, leave, fail fast, innovate, or move to Swaziland through a study abroad course. The best option of all? She can remain undecided.

Next came recruiters from savvy private colleges with cute emails crafted by writers with online degrees in Teen Friendly Subject Lines. Over 2,000 subject lines are now fighting for space on a 4.5 inch glass screen. Some plead, others inspire with motivational quotes. Most have promised her that their faculty to student ratio will help her get to Mars.

Meanwhile, recruiters with sophisticated data teams have mailed glossy over-sized post cards with stereotypical images of smiling, successful Indian kids in white lab coats. Sadly, they don’t understand that some Indian kids are not destined to be engineers or physicians.

On dry Arizona evenings, we got postcards from recruiters in the East Coast inviting her to see fall colors. They gave us a sense of relief from the heat, but failed to understand that this family cannot afford to take a plane ride to see a college in the woods.

The best recruiters were the ones who took care of everything for her.  They waived application fees, told her not to worry about essays, informed her that reference letters were not needed and the greatest consolation was that they didn’t believe in standardized test scores. All they wanted was her application so that they could get our common taxpayer funded mortgage to work.

So, just 15 minutes shy of the stroke of midnight last Sunday, she finally applied to one college. We waited with abated breath outside her room just to make sure that she submitted the application before the midnight deadline. As parents, we felt greater joy than seeing her arrive on this earth.

And, we had one tip for recruiters. Kids are as selective as your colleges are and they know where they want to go.

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