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21 April 2008

Choosing a college

"How did you know what university was right for you?"

Who could forget the monumental freak out that occurred when Paris, of the Gilmore Girls, found out she had not achieved her life long dream of being accepted to Harvard...she responded by loosing it during a nationally televised speech competition: "I’m not going to Harvard, I’m not going to Harvard. I had sex, but I’m not going to Harvard." If you are beginning your college search and you have not seen Gilmore Girls, season 3 episode really must netflix it!

Wow, this is an incredibly difficult decision. I spent most of my life hoping to go to Duke University. I'm not sure that there was really a good reason for this desire, I just knew it was a good school, in a state that I really wanted to live in. Plus, the campus was really pretty. I applied to Duke, I applied to Johns Hopkins, I applied to a couple of state schools "in state" and "out of state." I was accepted everywhere (go ahead, hate me). So, at this point I had a decision to make, and there were two main factors that influenced my decision.

My number one consideration was MONEY. I had full rides to three state schools. When my mother asked Duke about merit scholarships (specifically for national merit scholars) the admissions officer responded: "We have National Merit Scholars on our football team." If you know anything about Duke, you know their football team pretty much sucks. I could not in good conscience spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a "brand name" college education when I could get a solid "state school" education for free. I was planning on going to graduate school, and I can tell you from personal experience that going to a "brand name" undergrad institution is no match for undergraduate research, study abroad and an extensive list of extracurriculars.

My second consideration was location. During spring break of my senior year I went to visit one of my good friends who was a freshman at a very large "in state" university. I was on campus for 24 hours and ran into eight people that I knew from high school. I had no desire to to spend another four years in high school, so I wrote off anything in state after that visit.

By process of elimination I was left with only one option based on my criteria, an out of state school that had offered me a full ride. It was, by far, the best decision that I've ever made. I should note that while I have a good relationship with my parents, I was very comfortable moving a 10 hour car ride away from them. I was part of an excellent scholarship program that offered support, mentoring and even extra funding for research and volunteer projects. College is truly what you make of it, and you should look for the University that will provide you with the most opportunities and resources. Finally, one of my good friends once told me "If you don't want to like the place that you're living, you are never going to like it" you must be totally open and give you new home a solid chance.

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Mary said...

Ahhhhh I feel so relieved yet confused yet annoyed. Fortunately, I have been accepted everywhere I want (except for two schools that won't get back to me for another few weeks, but I don't want to go there anyways) and I kind of want to stay in the area I live in. I'm leaning towards a smaller, liberal, feminist university but my parents want me to use my scholarship to McGill or UBC and move into the big city! Eeep!

And then there's the worry about if I choose small school vs. brand name, will I still be as succesful? ... AHHHH.

Your post helped me a lot, really. Even if it didn't help me decide, atleast it helped ground my head in a time where large institutions are throwing money at me and everyone seems to know "what's best for me".


flutterbyblue said...

I wasn't going to post on this topic as I feel too far removed to really have an opinion...but that's not entirely true.

Where you do your undergraduate degree has NO BEARING on your future success. Go someplace where you will be happy and just make the most out of your college years. Take advantage of whatever opportunities you can get your hands on and you will be successful no matter where you go.

pretty young things said...

I totally agree with this post! I'm a junior in college and chose a state school as well, even though I had intended to go Ivy League ever since I was a little girl. While Brown, Duke and other "brand name schools" are very impressive to future employers, I decided that enjoying the college experience was more important than studying constantly. I recommend to state school attenders, as you mentioned briefly, to get as involved as you can. I studied abroad in Paris and joined numerous clubs which I've been told are factors just as important as an Ivy League school. It's so good to hear someone else took the same path as me that feels the need to spread this information around!!

ArchiTraveler said...

I also went to a state school, and like everyone else who posted so far, I also agree that your college experience is what you make of it. Get involved with the things that interest you the most. Also, join and become a contributing member to any professional society at your school in your field. Being on lots of clubs and having leadership experience looks great on a resume, but it looks even better if those activities are related to your field.

Don't forget that this is probably the time in your life when you'll have the most freedom to do what you want. Take advantage of it. My biggest advice, aside from what I said above, is to travel. You have more opportunities to travel as a student than you will once you get out of college. I traveled a lot when I was in school and now I wish that I had traveled more.

Noel said...

Hi, I just wanted to say that I read this post ages ago when it first was up -- but didn't comment until now. I guess it resonates with me more now that I'm a high-school senior and I've begun my college applications...

Just wanted to say that I really enjoyed reading this, haha.