Where Should You Apply?                                             by Patti Brugman

Rather than state:  I want to apply to the best college! Say, I want to apply to the best college for me!

         How do you determine your ideal college list? First, consider this conundrum: The “you” that is applying to college now, is not the same “you” that you will be in May when the results come out. How can that be? As you prepare for the big step of going off to college, you begin to change.  At first, you might think a UC or a school within driving distance is all you need. Later on, you will begin to see college as the chance for both an educational experience and a big adventure. The farther from home you go, the greater your chance for personal growth. So be imaginative with your list.

         While each college has a slightly different mission statement, the same major can be nicely studied at any number of schools. When you’re “shopping” for colleges, you should feel like a big-ticket buyer. College is a more than buying a car; it’s more like buying the “home” of your future!

         So often students apply to colleges with names they’ve heard. You know the ones. Generally, the bigger schools get thousands of applications, so let’s consider a handful of smaller schools. Get out a map and Google the websites of: Denison, Bates, and Kenyon. Check out Goucher, Lawrence, and Dickinson. Quiz yourself.  Where is Juniata, St. Olaf, or Grinnell?  Smaller schools are the ones that will offer you smaller classes, personal relationships with brilliant professors, and paid internships. Even better, their financial aid packages are often so good, that the final price tag will be equal to your bottom line.

         In addition, keep in mind other long-lasting facts about the school you apply to: the quality of the education and the kinds of students who attend that school.

         The quality of the education is really what going to college is all about. If you have the chance to visit campus, sit in on a class. If that is not possible, try a podcast class, or email a current student (talk to Admissions about this possibility) and ask him/her to describe one-day-in-physics-class. You really need to see how delightful it is to be part of a discussion group at each school and to be moved by the brilliance of the campus experience.

         Next in importance are the other students. Your experience in college is hugely dependent on the friends you’ll make.  You’ll be living with them, studying with them, and eating with them.  You might spend more time with your friends than with your professors! So who are these people?  Do they burp out one-word answers, or consider deeply and see themselves as part of a bigger world? The best campuses are the most diverse because through that balance of geography, race, belief, and variety in interests, each student is enriched by every other student on campus.

         When making your college list, be honest with yourself about who you really are and who you might become. Treat yourself to the luxury of a list that includes schools with smaller classes, more student involvement and a deeper and more personal education. You’ve worked hard. Treat yourself to the best!