“If you liked the tour, please leave a compliment for Adan—that’s me—on the feedback card!” says our guide. “If you didn’t like the tour, my name isn’t Adan, it’s David.” Everyone laughs as he passes around pens and paper. College tour number one of the day is done. Before we leave campus my mom insists on taking us around to some of her old haunts—it’s her alma mater, after all. In the summer it’s dead quiet, only the hum of the city a few blocks away to remind us that there are usually people here. Everything is empty and polished and green, waiting for the students’ return in a month or so.

My feet are stinging by the time we start the second tour of the day. I cling to the fat folder of promotional material like a lifeline, plodding after our guide, who is possibly even chirpier than the first. She banters with the guides of other groups as we pass them and manages to walk backwards the entire time in order to more fully project her voice to the crowd. This campus is colossal compared to the first, and we’re all a little lost halfway through. What a picture we must make, I think to myself, a mass of high school seniors and their overbearing parents, following this girl like ducklings after their mama.

It’s been remarkably easy to imagine myself living and studying on some of the campuses I’ve visited. This one is different—it’s too big and all the buildings look the same, turning me in circles until I don’t know which way we came from or which way is home. I trudge after our guide with aching feet until I finally hear her announce that the tour is coming to an end.

“Please take a feedback card on your way out!” she says. “Remember, if you liked the tour, my name is Emma, and if you didn’t, my name is Sarah.” Some things never change. ♦