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Coast-to-coast college search leads to Skidmore

August 23, 2012

Coast-to-coast college search leads to Skidmore

August 23, 2012

Margo and Peter
Author Margo Warren with her son Peter

"Must have a strong ability to hold your tongue. May not offer thoughts about a college, its geographic desirability, or its student body until client has formulated his own." So wrote journalist Margo Warren in her Washingtonian magazine piece on visiting colleges last year with her son, Peter Beiser, then a senior at Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda, Maryland.

 The mother-son duo would visit some 20 colleges and universities, including Boston College, Colgate, New York University, the University of Southern California, and Vassar. Beiser, aka the client, would ultimately "trust his gut" and enroll at Skidmore.

Why? Well, for starters, Beiser's visits to NYU and Boston University made it clear to him that he favored less urban campus environments with smaller student bodies. "I thought I might be overwhelmed going to school with 40,000 others," he recalls thinking after his BU visit. "And I realized I'd prefer walking across the campus green to get to class rather than battling city traffic. It's just a preference."

This narrowed the search to Northeastern liberal arts schools, which he admits "all start to seem the same after awhile." Until Skidmore, that is. Says Beiser, "I had a good feeling right away when I stepped onto Skidmore's campus—the Creative Thought Matters slogan, the more laid-back atmosphere, and the absence of a hardcore admissions pitch. Plus, the tour guide was very involved in music and was doing just the kind of thing I thought I'd like to do in college."

In the end, Beiser narrowed his choices to two — Boston College, where he had been accepted on an early-action basis, and Skidmore. Says the rising sophomore, "It came down to not over-analyzing things. I reminded myself that when I visited Skidmore it was the place I wanted to go. It's easy to rationalize decisions based on perceptions of prestige and other people's opinions. I went with my gut."

Happily, Beiser's first year reassured him that he had made a good choice. "Right off the bat, I became a friend with someone who is so similar to me that it's uncanny," he says. "No doubt, we will be lifelong friends. And I've made many more great connections, including with my professors." Beiser is considering majoring in philosophy—he likes the small department and personal attention—and keeping music as "something I do for myself and not as work."

As for the May 2012 Washingtonian article his mother wrote, he says he okayed it before it went to press. "It's fascinating how we think differently than our parents," he says. "There were places my mom loved that creeped me out, and the opposite was true, too. Her reasons were different than mine."

The good news. Skidmore was Peter Beiser's top choice, his mom was all for it, and it's proven to be a very good one for him.

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