CollegeBound Teen

Ah, prom season. The poofy hair. The meticulously coordinated pre-party pageantry. The congealed pools of vomit and precocious, transformational back-seat fumblings. The very mention of the word "prom" triggers any number of memories, many of which prompt a temporary plunge in hard-won self-esteem among otherwise well-adjusted adults.

Me, I'm burdened by no such issues, even though I didn't hook up, score or otherwise get jiggy with either of my prom dates (this renders me a statistical anomaly among those who spent their formative years in Jer-Z). So when I saw the "Prom 2006" headline staring at me from the cover of the Spring CollegeBound Teen, I decided to take a warm stroll down nostalgia boulevard.

Imagine my surprise, then, when the issue's 20-odd pages of prom coverage limit themselves mostly to fashion tips (a pair of well-appointed spreads) and fundraising ideas (what is this "helping others" thing of which you speak?). While the mag goes slightly against the grain by serving up a page on staying safe at prom, its exclusion of the word "condom" pretty much ignores the hormonal helter-skelter of its target audience. As such, the piece comes across as both a credibility-killer and a little bit irresponsible.

That's my problem with CollegeBound Teen: it aspires to some degree of hipness, yet time and again shies away from the more risqué top-of-mind issues among its readers. Which is fine--lord knows the world doesn't need another CosmoGIRL!--but you can't have it both ways.

Owing to its relationship with the CollegeBound Network, a clearinghouse of education and career info for high-schoolers, CBT likely can only push the envelope so far. I'd suggest dropping the small bursts of cool-kid pretense and concentrating on the more sober-minded material.

Why? Because unlike any other youth-leaning publication out there, CollegeBound Teen does the dry stuff justice. The Spring issue's features on admissions lingo, potential financial-aid snafus and the scourge of "Pathological Internet Use" (moi? never) should connect with teenagers nurturing higher-education aspirations. The mini-profiles on student achievers and entrepreneurs effortlessly and entertainingly turn the spotlight on kids who deserve the props. The feature on colleges "that are anything but ordinary" succinctly encompasses the diversity of the college experience.

(Apropos of nothing, my mom is fortunate that I never got wind of Marlboro College and its create-your-own-course-of-study philosophy. At 17, I would've jumped at the chance to major in tacos and minor in Van Halen.)

Predictably, the Spring issue veers off course when it ventures into the territory once inhabited by Young Miss and its ilk. Section headers like "Savvyscope" don't make any sense at all, while the "Celeb 101" compilation of celebrity quotes adds little that can't be found in more charismatic form elsewhere.

As for the cover profile on Amanda Bynes, I can't imagine that a single teen on this or any other planet would buy its saccharine, gauzy tone. On the plus side, it serves up a Worst Opening Sentence candidate for the ages: "Bubbly, polite, and beautiful, AMANDA BYNES is everything you'd imagine a teen starlet to be." I think I speak for a majority of 30-something pervs when I say that I imagine my teen starlets downing copious volumes of Goldschläger and hoofing up a storm on NYC club banquettes; rarely do manners enter into the equation.

I question a few of the mag's other decisions. The be-all-that-you-can-be "special section" on military opportunities ought to have ADVERTISING or PROMOTION stamped atop its every page. Also, it's not all that bright to regale the impressionable teen audience with tales of kids who won $15,000 scholarships in poker competitions. Gambling tends to be... what are the words I'm looking for here?... massively and insanely addictive.

Nonetheless, the folks behind CollegeBound Teen might be onto something--assuming, that is, they can resist the impulse to dumb down its pages with mascara plugs and Jamie Lynn Spears. The mag conveys crucial information to its readers. Why obscure it?

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