Many people you talk to will say that they applied to one, maybe two colleges. Many say that they only had one choice. I am not one of those people. I applied to 11 different schools. Toured over 30. Considered hundreds more. And got recruited by somewhere around 25 different schools for swimming. I had a big decision ahead of me. In the spring of my senior year it came down to four different schools and in just a few short months I would be spending the next four years of my life there.
The Final Four (in no particular order):
1. Indiana University
2. George Washington University
3. University of Richmond
4. Lehigh University
And I realize that I have used the number four several times in this blog already. But I'm about to make another list that involves the number four. This is a list of the four characteristics that I think every prospective college student should consider when choosing colleges. And these are in order of importance. And just for fun I'll give you my winner for each category.
Characteristic #1: The Program
This is plain and simple. Why would anyone choose to go to a mediocre program? You have to look at your personal academic level and compare it to those of potential schools. I realize it is not realistic for everyone to get into a top tier program, but you should definitely aim for the high end of your individual level. And it is especially easy to find out how programs are ranked and the different requirements for them through services such as http://www.collegeboard.com and http://www.usnews.com/education.
Winner: Well, all of them. But if it came down to which program had the highest ranking business program that would be The University of Richmond. However, all of my options were ranked in the top 30 business programs in the country; including the Kelley School of Business.
Characteristic #2: The People
When it comes to choosing where you want to go spend the next four years of your life, it is important to know that you can meet friends there. That's why college visits are SO important. I never visited the University of Richmond, so I never got the opportunity to hear students talk about their experiences and get to know them on a personal level. That is probably a major reason why I didn't choose to go there.
Winner: The George Washington University.Throughout the tours and information sessions at GW, I really felt myself connecting with the people I was meeting and listening to. Also, while on their campus I was able to tell by looking at the people that I could relate and get along with them. That is very important for me.
Characteristic #3: The Location
Near or far from home? City, rural, or somewhere in between? These are the two questions that basically every perspective student asks themselves when it comes to a college. I knew I wanted to be far from home because I wanted to start over in college and really branch out from high school. So all of my Final Four fit into that, but then they each could be split up into the next three options. City: University of Richmond (Richmond, VA) and George Washington University (Washington D.C.). Rural: Lehigh University (Bethlehem, PA). In between: Indiana University (Bloomington, IN).
Winner: The George Washington University. I mean, its Washington D.C. Its hard to compete with that.
Characteristic #4: The Money
Now I know I'm going to get shit for putting money last, but there are loans and scholarships for that exact reason. I think the previous three outweigh the costs of going to school. But you do have to be realistic. Are you paying for it yourself? Are your parents? Grandparents? In-state vs. Out of state? Private vs. Public? All major questions to look at. But luckily costs of going to school are made readily available on many websites including university websites.
Winner: Indiana University. This was the cheapest option for me...even though it still wasn't very cheap.