Monday, June 28, 2010

Picking a School

So in talking to a good many students who attend various schools ranging all along the east coast, I've discovered that there are many ways to pick a college. Some of them scare me.

First, choosing where and how much to apply
  • Apply to as many as possible
  • Only apply to the favorite school
  • Apply to eight schools (two safety, four mid-range, two reach) and visit the top two most interesting
  • Visit as many schools as possible in the summer and apply to the four most liked
  • Choose a college that has a community college, go to CC for two years, and then transfer to the larger college
  • US and World News Rankings decide which school to visit
  • Hearing about a school from a friend or a teacher who went there for undergraduate
  • Talking to graduate students and seeing where they went for undergrad
Choosing/ Final Decision
  • Choose the highest rated/ most famous overall school
  • Parent's choice
  • Picked out of a hat
  • Visited, stayed the night, talked to professors
  • Choose because it had the best rated/ most famous program they wanted
  • Picked based on number of better than average majors (for flexibility should they want to change majors)
  • Picked based on price tag and Financial Aid offers
Yes, I do know a girl who picked her school out of a hat; she just couldn't decide which to choose. In hindsight, though she loves her school, she did discourage anyone picking a school like that.

My approach was a little disorganized. I didn't visit a school until the end of the summer leading into my senior year. It just hadn't been on my mind or part of my priorities. (Furthermore, the squirrel pictures were some I took while on tour, which made showing my mom what Grounds looked like very difficult; however, I could vouch for it having a very healthy and robust squirrel population). I love UVa, but it's the only school I toured, the only school I visited, and I can't honestly say that that was the wisest move. It's something that worked out great for me, but I'd be hesitant to recommend it to others. In fact, I don't. I applied to schools I was fairly certain I could get into, and I shopped a lot based on cost and travel distance. I wish I hadn't been so limited. Financial Aid should not be the reason not to visit or apply to a school. There are so many scholarships and grants and programs out there like AccessUVa that can help students. Moreover, students really shouldn't fear loans so much. I have several out right now, and it's not the end of the world. I'm getting a great education at a quality school with the kind of culture I love. That's what's important to me, and whenever possible, follow your heart rather than your purse strings.

If I can finish off with one piece of advice I heard last summer from a brilliant man: it doesn't matter where you go to school. What matters is how you did where you went. Did you take chances, use available resources, make the most of it? That's what matters. Make the most of looking for colleges. Don't discount a school because your friends haven't heard of it or because you think it wouldn't look cool as a bumper sticker. Give colleges--old and new, famous or not--a fair chance. You never know what you'll find.

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