The scene, or variations of it, is familiar to almost every student already at the University. About 20 high school seniors sit in an auditorium or guidance counselor's office, listening intently as an admissions officer speaks in awed tones about Benjamin Franklin and the "one University" concept. Some of the students wear cheerleaders' uniforms or football jackets. Many are still awkward with the long-armed gangliness of post-adolescence. They are all nervous, curious and hopeful. Eric Furda, a University admissions officer and 1987 College graduate, sees hundreds of anxious high school juniors and seniors each year as he makes his rounds throughout the western Philadelphia suburbs, Delaware and southern New Jersey. Last Friday, he spoke to about 50 students at three suburban Philadelphia high schools, making his sales pitch and answering questions about SAT scores, financial aid and alumni connections. At Upper Dublin High School, Furda's first stop Friday morning, about 23 students listened in silence broken only by occasional tentative laughter as Furda plugged the University. "You are very popular right now," he told the anxious high schoolers. "You can go home and thank your parents that you were born when you were. It's a buyers' market." The nervous tension in the room grew even greater when Furda's talk turned to the essays -- particularly the one which asks potential freshmen to discuss why they want to study at the University. The students hunched over their notebooks, scribbling down virtually every word he said as if it were gospel. The students -- some of them appearing almost as pre-professional as many of the University students they hope to become -- questioned Furda mainly about graduate school and how best to get into a good program. "Get your undergraduate degree first," Furda said after the fourth question about medical school, law school, or MBA programs. Several Upper Dublin guidance counselors hovered nearby, giving encouraging glances to students who asked intelligent, probing questions. Almost all of the students said they have been to the campus. John Lin, an Upper Dublin senior comes to the University weekly to take Mathematics 240 -- third semester Calculus -- in the College of General Studies. After visiting each school in his territory, Furda tries to match cards which students fill out with information about themselves to lists that the University's admissions office buys from the College Board indicating students with certain attributes -- for example, high SAT scores. At Upper Dublin he found several matches, and marked the cards accordingly. At Furda's next stop, the posh Germantown Academy in Fort Washington, the atmosphere was much more relaxed. Counselors directed the students -- most of them juniors -- to a large comfortable room, where they lounged casually on the rug or on couches and chatted amiably with Furda. "Sit on the Button in front of Van Pelt for a half and hour and if you like what you see then go across to College Hall for an information session at 1 p.m.," Furda suggested. "If you don't like what you see then jump on the 'El' and go home." Jackie Kaiser, one of only three seniors who attended the program at Germantown Academy, said that the University is one of 22 schools she is considering. Many students attending the information session, including Kaiser, had family or friends who attended the University. Furda assured them that being the child or grandchild of an alumnus will give them "an extra push" in the admission process. Germantown Academy students were concerned that the University consider the quality of their high school -- which Furda said is very competitive. At Friday's final stop, Wissahickon High School, the information session was in an auditorium, where a diverse group of students sat rather stiffly and seemed hesitant to answer questions except when they were asked jokingly to name the smartest among them. Furda used senior Matt Klinger as an example to explain the academic options available here. He said Klinger, who wants to major in international relations, would have the opportunity to do a dual-degree with the College and Wharton and submatriculate into the Wharton MBA program. "Congratulations, Matt," Furda teased. Furda said he ends his day by driving home and writing a report on his visit to each school. While most of these do not mention individual students, he said he writes notes to himself and makes an effort to remember individuals.Comments powered by Disqus
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