Elie Levine ‘16
In 2011, Y1s embarked on the annual end-of-year college tour, often referred to as the CTO trip, from Union Square at four in the morning. “It was a group undertaking,” College Transfer Office Director Beth Cheikes remembered. “We were like the night riders setting out to look at colleges at an ungodly hour.” This year, Y1s won’t be meeting anywhere at an ungodly hour. The trip starts at eight in the morning at Union Square. “We’ve become much more tame,” Cheikes admitted. But the weeklong New York-area college tour to which BHSEC juniors look forward to continues to be educational and fun.
Since the first College Transfer Office trip in 2003, the trip content and itinerary have changed significantly. Each Y1 class differs widely from the previous one, and so does each year’s CTO trip. Many Y1s greeted this year’s schedule—a busy week of touring schools in Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, and Massachusetts—with surprise. It was so different from last year’s.
“Last year, it was an upstate New York trip,” Cheikes said. The class of 2015 visited many CUNYs, SUNYs, and schools in New York State. The trip has been brought closer to home, Cheikes said, because of concerns that the DOE couldn’t pay for gas and mileage on the buses utilized.
Yearly fluctuations in the specifics of the CTO trip stem mainly from budgetary needs. Y1s this year were instructed to submit forms early, on a first-come, first-served basis, because the number of seats was limited. The reason for this is both spatial and pecuniary. Trip organizers Beth Cheikes and Colin Wiseman are provided with only one bus option: a 55-seat bus. Two buses provide seats for 100 students and 10 chaperones. The number of students signed up this year is in the nineties, and Cheikes and Wiseman hope it will reach 100 so that the seats on the two buses are utilized completely. Because this year’s Y1 class is smaller, it was easy and cost-efficient to use two buses. Last year, because 115 students attended the trip, the office used three buses, costing the DOE 50% more.
Despite recent alterations, Cheikes and Wiseman believe that the CTO trip will fulfill its chief goal for the Y1s who participate. A college trip is an opportunity to see a “diverse range of colleges” while the cost is kept “affordable for students in any economic range,” noted Wiseman. It’s also a chance to see college “prototypes”—while these may not be the exact schools to which students eventually apply, the 11 private and public colleges they’ll visit in June will educate them as to the environments of similar colleges elsewhere in the country. Students are exposed to universities in urban (Boston University, Northeastern University, Clark University), suburban (Wesleyan, Vassar, Marist, and more), and rural settings (University of Rhode Island, University of Connecticut). Highlights of the upcoming trip will include a ghost tour on the Smith College campus, as well as dinner and a movie in Harvard Square so students “get a sense of [the] environment.”
BHSEC alumni remember the experience of touring colleges with classmates years later. Some have even offered to become chaperones. For the past few years, parents (and occasionally alumni) have chaperoned the trips.
The history of the CTO trip includes couplings with BHSEC Queens and nights spent at Bard College at Simon’s Rock, with side trips to colleges during the day. “We’re bigger now, we have multiple campuses,” says Cheikes. “We can cover more distance, see more schools, so we don’t necessarily stay [at Simon’s Rock].”
The CTO trip can cause anxiety. “Some of our students haven’t been out of the city a lot,” Cheikes said, referring to the prevalence of “insects and grass” outside of the city. The symbolic value of the trip, however, outweighs the physical discomfort it may cause for some students. Above all, the CTO trip is a great “experience for our kids to be together.”