The envelopes are in.
If you have more than one thick envelope in your hand you’re now in the driver’s seat. The colleges have taken their sweeeeet time choosing you, and now it’s your turn to choose them. They’ve given you the month of April to make your choice. Far beyond the glossy paper of the brochures, here are some things you should consider:
Economics. It’s hard to deny that this may be a factor for many students. If you’ve been offered a generous financial aid package or a scholarship, it’s going to be hard to ignore this “bonus”. However, the price tag may not be so much a factor in some cases. The Ivies and a small number of other schools across the country have policies that allow students to meet the full need of students and allow them to attend irrespective of their ability to pay.
Fit. Where do you feel like you will fit in best? Some students thrive at universities where the city itself plays an important role in one’s overall education. Cities included on this list include New York and Boston and, as you can imagine, the cultural and internship opportunities are enormous. However, city schools tend to be more impersonal and cities aren’t as conducive to a school community atmosphere. Residential campus schools like The University of Florida in Gainesville or Williams College pride themselves on providing everything you need right there on campus, from cultural activities to social life. They have more of a community atmosphere.
Academics. Do you have an idea of what you want to do in the future? Then you need a school that offers a major or program that will allow you to explore that option to fullest. Also be aware that there can be real differences in the course of study at various places. Some schools like Columbia University and the University of Chicago require students to take a core curriculum. The mandatory courses can take up to two years to complete. Open curriculum schools, like Amherst, Brown and New College, have no required courses. Instead they require that students take one of a list of first-year seminars. Guidelines and advisors at these schools help students with their course choices.
Culture. Michael Roth, president of Wesleyan College presents this consideration excellently:
“The evolution of student culture over many years that comes to define the way a place feels to the young men and women who spend these transitional years on campus. Students – not teachers and officials – make that culture. At Duke, for example, there are extraordinary programs and deep research going on. But over several weeks of the spring semester (especially this year), it’s Blue Devil basketball frenzy that takes over campus culture. At Middlebury, there is currently an energetic student debate about the meal plan, which many students see as a defining element in their campus experience. At USC, the entertainment industry seeps into the fabric of the place, even when the subject areas are quite distant from Hollywood. At Wesleyan, the students have created vibrant music and film contexts that seem to fuel independent rock and hip-hop on the one hand, and popular film and TV on the other. Although most students here study neither music nor film, the energy of these areas percolates around campus.”
Only you will know what is truly important to you. What this college counselor suggests is that you create a list of all the questions you want answered and then you go visit the school. If you’ve already visited the schools, then visit your top two choices again. Take a good hard look at the school. Can you see yourself fitting into the culture? Do you feel comfortable? This is going to be your home away from home for the next 4 years.
Specific questions you may want to ask if you haven’t already: How hard is it to get into the classes you want? How small or big are the classes? Are there internships, and how does the school help students prepare for life after college whether that means career placement or help with graduate and professional programs? Does the school offer the athletic opportunities you want to participate in or cheer on? What will it mean to be an alumnus of George Washington University rather than the University of Miami? College counselors can help guide you to the right decision but ultimately, you should be looking for the campus energy that matches your own.
No doubt about it. Choosing your college is a big decision. Congratulations from International College Counselors to all the students offered this decision to make.
Reach deep down inside and make the best decision for you!
Mandee Heller Adler
International College Counselors