Advice on campus location and admission

As promised, for newcomers to the blog here is an exceprt from the first of my posts on navigating the admissions process. Just a reminder (DANGER! legal jargon coming), the information in these notes does not necessarily reflect the views of my institution , or anyone else in admissions or counseling (even though, no matter what anyone else has told you, I’m right and they’re wrong). And of course, thank you for putting up with my gratuitous promotion of GEORGE MASON UNIVERSITY while you are receiving my oh-so-helpful advice!

I’ll start with a bit about picking a school, then next time post a bit about how to get in, and keep switching back and forth until you get bored, or confused, or both…

And so, with great fanfare:

Picking a college: LOCATION

I see it all the time. You go to a website to check out schools and are asked what kind of location you want, but they only give you three choices: urban, suburban, and rural. Not very helpful! How great would it be if they said things like, location: really fun, no fun at all, medium fun but very attractive students, right? No such luck! The websites are built on really simple (and boring) databases. So what to do?

First, you need to get a better idea of what you really want in a location. Are you someone who prefers a smaller atmosphere? Lets say, for instance, you like to hang out with a friend (we’ll call him “Bob”). Bob is fun. Bob is entertaining. Bob turns gray skies blue. And, when you are ready to put down the books and hang, Bob is the guy you want to find, and you want to find him right away. If you’re at a small school, Bob will be easy to find. Bob rarely hides – he is most likely at one of the two campus hangouts. That’s also where you’ll find everyone else. All the time. Or in their room, since, really, those are the options. This is an incredible atmosphere for many students who want to walk into a room and have everyone say “Hi,” not because of some freakish need to be falsely friendly, but because they actually know you.

On the other hand, Bob may be a bit harder to track down at another school. Take Mason, for example (why? Because I can). We’ve got three awesome student unions, an incredible Center for the Arts, and a 15,000 seat stadium with Division I basketball (you heard about that, right?) and music performances ranging from Gwen Stefani to Bob Dylan. And we’re just outside Washington, DC, so you’ve got the Smithsonian, the Kennedy Center, the monuments, and a ton of night life. To tell you the truth, this may be totally overwhelming for some students. Bob could be anywhere!! Like most schools, there are several on-campus events and programs where you can find pretty much everyone, but on most days and most times, you may need GPS to track Bob down (or at least a cell phone number).

Here’s the bottom line – you need to do more than look up a school online to get a feel for its location. You can find large city schools with that nice, isolated, always-knowing-where-Bob-is feel. And you can also find small rural schools so incredibly connected to their region that students are all over the place all the time. Yes, it’s generally true that major metropolitan areas offer a bit more to do and those smaller schools have an edge with getting a bit more personal. But don’t just limit yourself to two or three options because those are the only ones on a web site. Get to know what you really want, what kind of atmosphere will help you succeed, and then look deeper into the schools to find the ones that match best. Before you make a final decision, you’re going to want to visit to see if your impressions are right or wrong.

Other, less helpful, advice on campus location issues can be found at:

All right, that’s more than enough for now. Feel free to pass this on to your friends (or enemies, should you have found it that torturous). In closing, I hope you get in everywhere you apply, you get every scholarship you want, and (you knew it was coming) I hope you decide the only place for you is George Mason University.


4 Responses

  1. I can’t help but realize that no one has commented on this, but I just wanted to say how helpful and calming these couple entries have been for me. Thank you!

  2. I just read 2 of your topics of discussion and found them entertaining and accurate from what I learned (and remember)from this “experience” with my oldest 6 years ago. The trick really is to know yourself and want you need to do your best and be happy. Can’t wait till the decisions are made. Anticipation is the worst!

  3. I love your writing style, If I could do it over, I’d head to Mason and and take communications. Honestly, I have a college senior, just applied to 13 schools, taken the SAT twice and is scheduled for the ACT just ‘in case’. But, the bottom line is he is self-motivated, grabbed a book from a friend to study for the second SAT, has taken a slew of AP courses and Pre- Engineering college level in high school. All we really want is ONE of those really big scholarships so the family left home(mom, dad, bro, & sis) can have half the lifestyle he will at college.Thanks Again for your entertaining & enlightening information which has confirmed some of my inner suspicions about the whole process. I look forward to more!

  4. you’re quite welcome – glad to help!

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