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Spring 2004
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Jessica Ruthruff of San Jose, Calif., and her mother, Linda, are on a rite of passage for teenagers and their parents. Over two weeks in January they visit nine colleges Jessica has applied to in New England, New York and Minnesota. Jessica, a serious and organized young woman, has pored over college guidebooks, surfed Web sites, attended college fairs and read piles of admissions materials. She has followed college students around on campus tours, eaten in dining halls and taken copious notes and digital pictures to jog her memory once she’s back home. Now Jessica and her mother pause in the sunny lobby of Colby’s Lunder House, chat with admissions officers, plan their next step, all in an attempt to best decide where Jessica wants to spend the next four years of her life.

But first, the colleges have to decide whether they want her.

At that very moment, just down the hall in Lunder House, carefully gathered in a red folder, is Jessica’s application—high school transcript and SAT scores, carefully worded essays, the CD of her playing the harp. It is just one of more than 4,100 folders of applications. Most are alphabetized in 11 file boxes lined up on two large tables. Some are piled in small stacks on the desks, chairs and even floors of Colby’s admissions offices. Reading season is underway, and a dozen staff members are busy pulling applications from the boxes and deciding whether Jessica and each of her fellow applicants will be offered a spot in Colby’s Class of 2008 come April.

Jessica hopes she’s one of the chosen. “Who are they going to pick? Which one?” she wonders.

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