Picks and Pans Main: Video

updated 05/14/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/14/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT


More than 25,000 of the best and the brightest in U.S. high schools have been notified as to who has been admitted to which of the eight Ivy League colleges—and who hasn't.

For those happy few with more than one acceptance to choose from, the decision shouldn't be based on Steve Barrett's two-hour video. But for students who are just beginning to think about where they might like to go to college and who would be interested in forming a useful first impression of the Ivies, this is a tape that makes sense.

Barrett's technique was simplicity itself: He spent three days on each campus with his videocam, talking with students at random, soliciting their impressions of life at Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Penn, Princeton and Yale. The shortcomings of this approach are apparent. Many of the interviewees reveal more about themselves than they do about their colleges, and the camera's bias is to linger on the most accessible, outspoken kids, with little regard for context. (This would be less of a problem if Barrett, an independent producer, could have spent more than 12 minutes of his finished tape on each campus.)

Often the challenge is to read between takes to get a sense of each school, and in time a kind of sense does emerge. Under-graduates at Brown love the freedom of the place and its relatively unstructured curriculum. Cornell's avid preprofessionals are aggressively proud of how hard they work. Columbia kids welcome the intensity of the intimidating city they have chosen to live in, and young Harvard students, secure in the notion that they are at the very best of all possible schools, really do seem more worldly and assured than most of their peers.

Barrett's introductory comments on each campus are perfunctory, and he might have avoided telling us that "if Princeton is Brooke Shields, then Yale is celebrity-graduate Jodie Foster—outspoken and unpredictable." Still, videos like this are an idea whose time has come, and Barrett's execution is slick and efficient. In-depth videos on individual colleges would be an invaluable aid to any student with questions no course catalog can answer. (Campus, $19.95; 800-242-4895)


So you've decided which Ivy to grace with your presence—or decided to head for State after all. Now pay attention. These may be not only the most deliberate 58 minutes on video but also the most useful.

Amiable actor-hosts Terri Eoff and Mike Conforti admit up front that: (a) college can be overwhelming; (b) their topic, note-taking, is tedious; and (c) the information provided won't solve all problems. Still, for anyone past seventh grade, they offer solid techniques for dealing with such academic problems as motor-mouthed lecturers.

The tape is devoted to such areas as how a speaker's delivery signals what information is crucial and how to preread. There's also a system mnemonically labeled SQ3R—survey, question, read, recite, review—for dealing with ultraboring texts.

This video is efficient, smart and, indeed, notable. See it now and do a fast-forward refresher this summer. Just don't expect it to make your hand-writing legible. (Academic Resources, $39.95; 800-451-0100)

From Our Partners