As a recent comment makes clear, the process of deciding what makes a school “right” is anything but simple. Unfortunately, a lot of the material out there just makes things more confusing.
The colleges and universities will send you brochures that rival the best magazines, online movies of their schools, podcasts…even, as I noted in a recent post, take out personal ads about you locally. In every case the campus looks BEAUTIFUL and the students pretty much look like the cast of Gossip Girl. From the descriptions, it looks like every school has everything you could ever want, and of course declares that this institution is probably the ONLY one for you.
Then you get to the rankings, search engines, websites, etc. The numbers are confusing, and don’t match, and many make no sense to you at all. Do you really care as an undergraduate applicant how many books they have in the library? Aren’t you more interested in the access to documents from the connection in your room (or anywhere else on campus). And, as I’ve described elsewhere (and will likely do so again), the colleges have all kinds of ways to make some of their numbers look better, making you wonder how you really tell the difference.
Then you also have to wonder, especially on the rankings and lists, how much weight is placed on things you don’t care about. Do you care as much about faculty salary, for instance, as US News and World Report does?
College counsellors and admissions officers talk a lot about fit, and as a result we’ve reached an intensity of stressing you out to find the RIGHT school. Here’s the start of my two cents on the issue (maybe even a nickel). You need to start by deciding which factors matter to you, not just taking a list you were handed. Part of that is going to visit schools every chance you get, even those not on your radar, so that you can hear our propaganda and decide if there are some new things to add to your list or some old ones to take off. You also need to keep in mind that there is no perfect school, that every study done finds name recognition wildly overrated in proportion to your future job/income, and that you are looking to find a bunch of schools that would be great to attend, not an ultimate dream school. Over the next few days I’ll get into some examples – questions to ask and things to consider. But in the meantime, and here’s my best advice, don’t just go to the college because you fall in love with the girl/guy on the brochure. No…really. Be seeing you.
Filed under: Education |