Here’s a condensed version of episode 21 on the Tom Talks College podcast with some slick visuals referenced on said podcast.


We just wrapped up another state-mandated ACT this morning, so parents of juniors in the great state of Wisconsin…be good to your kids. We’ve been working them pretty hard, and they need a little mental downtime and maybe a three-hour nap. I’m enjoying a slower day today, then I’m back at Edgewood tomorrow for two ACT classes with two great groups of students before hopping on an early flight out of Dane County Municipal Airport and arriving before noon at Seattle Tacoma International. Assuming they don’t lose my rental car agreement, I’m headed north to Bellingham to visit Western Washington University, home to two former OnCampus students and then back to enjoy all that Seattle has to offer. 

Friday = Fun day 

I’ll be on the University of Washington campus no later than 7:30 Friday morning and be there until mid-morning, when I head south to Portland. On my way I’ll make quick stops at Seattle University, the University of Puget Sound and Evergreen State College. Friday afternoon includes stops at Reed College, Lewis and Clark College and then Portland State, all in the greater Portland metro area. 

Saturday is for Beavers and Ducks. 

Surely strong coffee and doughnuts are available in Portland, and I’ll enjoy them on my way to Corvallis, where I’ll poke around Oregon State, then make the quick jaunt over to Eugene where I’ll say it like they say it, hopefully. YOU-gene. YOU-gene. Gotta practice. I dislike those acid green and yellow costumes our future Big Ten rivals wear, but I’m tempted to buy something garish and wear it home, just for shock value — and because the whole idea of any travel, collegiate or otherwise, is to do what they do, eat what they eat and talk like they talk. Otherwise, I could go to a Chili’s at West Towne Mall. No fun in that. At 4:30 this morning when Buddy the 16-year-old rat terrier texted me that he needed to be let out I did some revamping of the travel plans and decided to spend half an hour on the way back to Portland walking around Willamette University, one of the esteemed Colleges That Change Lives. Evergreen State College and Puget Sound are also on that list list, and you’ll hear me talk more about what Colleges That Change Lives means in my social media posts and next week when I compile my notes for the next podcast and blog. 

Why do I visit campuses, and why do I visit so many in such a short time? 

I willingly spend company money (a.k.a my money) to travel around the United States so that I can speak with greater authority when I’m hired by a family to build a college list for their student, and so that my conversations and advice to anyone – a test prep client, someone who comes in for a free consult and decides to go elsewhere, or even a friend – are more accurate, more informed and more helpful. My goal is to experience and know this campus as a place, in ways I can’t through just a website or a virtual tour. The one math formula I didn’t make your kids memorize is this: 

Being There = Knowing

Most of these colleges have been on my wish list for quite some time, and it’s time to fill the gap on the map.

I visit campuses because college is what I do and who I am, and I just can’t get enough of this. But I am not trying to relive my glory days. I am dedicated to the idea that college is a critical choice, and one that is not the right choice for every high school student. I’m convinced we all can do a better job of making an informed choice so that we have better experiences and get more from that experience.   

But why so many in such a short time?

Eleven campus visits in just over two days is a lot. (I did 31 in 11 days back in 2022, but who’s counting?) I’m cheap (thrifty?), and it’d be great to devote an entire day to each college, or just do two in one day – but I don’t know when I’ll get back to Seattle, so I’m going to maximize my time by doing pre- and post-trip research. I know a decent amount about all these schools, some more than others, but I don’t know what it looks like when you pause in the middle of the campus in Corvallis and look around. I don’t know (yet) where I could walk as a freshman to find a cool, alternative coffee shop or a great burrito. I have a burning desire to know those things, the way I know those things about State Street, or the many campuses where I’ve already visited. 

Filling the gap in the map

In 2020 I added a wish list to my spreadsheet of colleges that were high on my list. I’m delighted to see that I’ve made it to so many of these places, sometimes tacking on a few on my drive back from visiting our son, Joe, in Cincinnati — and that big purple swatch came during a Christmas visit to the in-laws in Tucson, which is really just five or six hours from San Diego. You see how this works.

What do you get out of this?

In addition to some Facebook Live posts and a foray or two onto Instagram, I’ll pull together some time-tested, Tom-tested tips for better campus visits from these and my almost 190 previous campus visits and share them with you next week. I’m incredibly excited to be on the road again, and in the same way I love to talk about college football and good BBQ in the South, I just really love sharing what I know about colleges with people like you who want to learn more. It’s 8:32 p.m. on Wednesday. I should probably pack a toothbrush.