Author Topic: How did you choose a college?  (Read 19361 times)

Basenji

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Re: How did you choose a college?
« Reply #50 on: July 06, 2016, 11:15:43 AM »
I don't understand the visits to campuses and did no visits myself. You're going there to work your butt off for a piece of paper, not for the scenery. Seems a huge waste of time and resources.

I'm really glad that I went on campus visits where I did - it's an opportunity to sit in on classes, to see if the school is more full of "partiers" or "studious" folks (is the library or the bar full of students?), talk to current students about their relationship to their professors. Also if you're interested in off-campus activities like community service, it's good to get a feel for your future town. I wouldn't move to a city for 4 years without visiting first, so I wouldn't have done the same with college. Very little of it was about the "scenery" most of it was about seeing what the student population and classes were like.

A campus visit to one college knocked them out of the running for me when I realized just how very very remote it was and the students didn't seem excited about academics as much as the college brochure advertised. The students seemed much more upper-class and partiers than I had expected based on the college brochure and it turned out that TA's taught most of the classes (not professors).

All of my far-away visits were paid for by the colleges because I was an accepted low-income student so there was little expense out of pocket.

YMMV though, if you go to a big school, it's likely that you can find the niche of students you want to work with and find your groove - at a smaller school, I think it's a bad idea to go without visiting. Seems like lacking in research for a major financial and life decision.
Exactly all this.

My dad drove me to a couple schools for overnights, no big whoop, wasn't expensive. Not sure how else I could have really gotten a feel for the place. And if one only "works one's butt off for a piece of paper" I don't know what to say to that. My experience was very different. That beautiful campus and natural setting never stopped making me happy.

MakeSmarterDecisions

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Re: How did you choose a college?
« Reply #51 on: July 06, 2016, 05:40:37 PM »
Again - this has been super helpful and I appreciate all of your stories!  There were definitely some differences but similar themes as well.  I am going to work on putting that all together as I continue writing.  For anyone just joining on - please continue to share!

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Re: How did you choose a college?
« Reply #52 on: July 07, 2016, 08:53:32 AM »
I don't understand the visits to campuses and did no visits myself. You're going there to work your butt off for a piece of paper, not for the scenery. Seems a huge waste of time and resources.

I'm really glad that I went on campus visits where I did - it's an opportunity to sit in on classes, to see if the school is more full of "partiers" or "studious" folks (is the library or the bar full of students?), talk to current students about their relationship to their professors. Also if you're interested in off-campus activities like community service, it's good to get a feel for your future town. I wouldn't move to a city for 4 years without visiting first, so I wouldn't have done the same with college. Very little of it was about the "scenery" most of it was about seeing what the student population and classes were like.

A campus visit to one college knocked them out of the running for me when I realized just how very very remote it was and the students didn't seem excited about academics as much as the college brochure advertised. The students seemed much more upper-class and partiers than I had expected based on the college brochure and it turned out that TA's taught most of the classes (not professors).

All of my far-away visits were paid for by the colleges because I was an accepted low-income student so there was little expense out of pocket.

YMMV though, if you go to a big school, it's likely that you can find the niche of students you want to work with and find your groove - at a smaller school, I think it's a bad idea to go without visiting. Seems like lacking in research for a major financial and life decision.
Exactly all this.

My dad drove me to a couple schools for overnights, no big whoop, wasn't expensive. Not sure how else I could have really gotten a feel for the place. And if one only "works one's butt off for a piece of paper" I don't know what to say to that. My experience was very different. That beautiful campus and natural setting never stopped making me happy.

For the record I was deeply unhappy and self-destructive during most of my time at Cornell, but that was pretty much all on me.

gillstone

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Re: How did you choose a college?
« Reply #53 on: July 07, 2016, 09:04:53 AM »
1) How did you find the college you went to?
My father worked as a janitor at a school that is part of a tuition exchange program.  I was basically to go to any college on the list (over 150 of them) and receive a discount equal to cost of tuition at the college my father worked. If a school was cheaper, tuition was free, if more expensive, I would pay the difference.   

2) What were your top 1 or 2 factors in making your final decision?
I chose a school 6 hours away based on their overall academics and their nationally ranked speech and debate program (Go Talking Saints!).  It also helped that I was far enough away to no longer be free babysitting for my 6 younger siblings who were all under age 5. 

Grad school was a simpler choice.  I looked at the top 5 schools in my chosen field, dropped Harvard because that shit wasn't happening and then went with who gave me the best aid package.  University of Minnesota won out by offering a full fellowship. Go Golden Gophers!

mm1970

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Re: How did you choose a college?
« Reply #54 on: July 07, 2016, 09:59:22 AM »
Quote
Then we pulled into Ithaca. Cornell had this amazing, beautiful campus in a beautiful setting. Lots of different schools and you could take classes in most of them to try on subjects. The people I met on the overnight visit were friendly, down-to-earth, and it seemed like a place I would feel comfortable. Great time, great education, all positives.

So.  Many. Hills.

catccc

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Re: How did you choose a college?
« Reply #55 on: July 07, 2016, 10:09:58 AM »
This is probably not a good method, but I only applied to one school.  It was good enough for my sister, and they gave her money, so I figured it was good enough for me.  (And they gave me money.)  It all worked out fine.  It was an inexpensive state school close to home.  (But far enough that I wanted to live on campus and did.  But I came home almost every weekend the first 2 years.)


Allison

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Re: How did you choose a college?
« Reply #56 on: July 07, 2016, 10:14:38 AM »
It showed up in a Google search for schools with a microbiology program and was far away from my parents and high school.  As the first person in my family to go to college, it was a challenge to pick a school.  The decision ended up being one of the best even if the snow was more than they said in the brochure, (16 feet annually). And I never went in person until registration....

Helvegen

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Re: How did you choose a college?
« Reply #57 on: July 07, 2016, 10:14:45 AM »
I chose based on a whim. I spent zero time researching. I made a decent choice anyway - state flagship university commuter campus. Discounted tuition because it wasn't the regular college experience, I was able to live at home, and I got a BA from a well respected institution. If I could do it all over again, I would have gone to the local community college for the first two years then transferred over. But otherwise, it is basically what I will recommend to my own daughter. I honestly don't know how we could afford anything else or the ROI would be worth it at all.

pbkmaine

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Re: How did you choose a college?
« Reply #58 on: July 07, 2016, 10:42:45 AM »
Quote
Then we pulled into Ithaca. Cornell had this amazing, beautiful campus in a beautiful setting. Lots of different schools and you could take classes in most of them to try on subjects. The people I met on the overnight visit were friendly, down-to-earth, and it seemed like a place I would feel comfortable. Great time, great education, all positives.

So.  Many. Hills.

DH and I have taken summer courses at Cornell Adult University. After a week in Ithaca, I can RUN up the 118 steps coming out of the World Trade Center PATH station.

FINate

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Re: How did you choose a college?
« Reply #59 on: July 07, 2016, 10:42:51 AM »
Quote
Then we pulled into Ithaca. Cornell had this amazing, beautiful campus in a beautiful setting. Lots of different schools and you could take classes in most of them to try on subjects. The people I met on the overnight visit were friendly, down-to-earth, and it seemed like a place I would feel comfortable. Great time, great education, all positives.

So.  Many. Hills.

The view from the local state university I attended :)


acroy

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Re: How did you choose a college?
« Reply #60 on: July 07, 2016, 10:50:52 AM »
I don't understand the visits to campuses and did no visits myself. You're going there to work your butt off for a piece of paper, not for the scenery. Seems a huge waste of time and resources.

I'm really glad that I went on campus visits where I did - it's an opportunity to sit in on classes, to see if the school is more full of "partiers" or "studious" folks (is the library or the bar full of students?), talk to current students about their relationship to their professors. Also if you're interested in off-campus activities like community service, it's good to get a feel for your future town. I wouldn't move to a city for 4 years without visiting first, so I wouldn't have done the same with college. Very little of it was about the "scenery" most of it was about seeing what the student population and classes were like.

A campus visit to one college knocked them out of the running for me when I realized just how very very remote it was and the students didn't seem excited about academics as much as the college brochure advertised. The students seemed much more upper-class and partiers than I had expected based on the college brochure and it turned out that TA's taught most of the classes (not professors).

All of my far-away visits were paid for by the colleges because I was an accepted low-income student so there was little expense out of pocket.

YMMV though, if you go to a big school, it's likely that you can find the niche of students you want to work with and find your groove - at a smaller school, I think it's a bad idea to go without visiting. Seems like lacking in research for a major financial and life decision.
Exactly all this.

My dad drove me to a couple schools for overnights, no big whoop, wasn't expensive. Not sure how else I could have really gotten a feel for the place. And if one only "works one's butt off for a piece of paper" I don't know what to say to that. My experience was very different. That beautiful campus and natural setting never stopped making me happy.

For the record I was deeply unhappy and self-destructive during most of my time at Cornell, but that was pretty much all on me.
Great input, thanks.
Maybe I''m just knee-jerking against what seems to be non-mustachian excessive collegiate planning. It's a 'thing'. Several co-workers are right now on planes and mega road trips schlepping their 17,18 yr olds around the country to find a college which is a 'good fit for them' (amenities, not academics). They are kids, they are 17,18. They don't know nothin! They play with their phone all day! I didn't know much either, but I knew out-of-state was way more $$ than in-state, and I knew how to read the rankings (reading will also tell you if it's an academic or party school). It's self-evident that the #1 purpose to commit 4yrs of life and the large expense is to get a piece of paper to get your first job. The rest is details and like anything else, is there to be optimized for it's purpose.

When time comes, my mini-mustaches can go visit if they like, on their time&dime.

monstermonster

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Re: How did you choose a college?
« Reply #61 on: July 07, 2016, 02:41:21 PM »
I didn't know much either, but I knew out-of-state was way more $$ than in-state, and I knew how to read the rankings (reading will also tell you if it's an academic or party school).
One common misconception I wish I could carve into low-income student's desks: private schools that have high sticker prices might very well be much cheaper than in-state schools, because they have larger endowments, more flexibility in funds, and often are free for low-income students. You do not know the cost of college until you get the financial aid package. Sticker price means nothing.

My four years at a private school with a $40K sticker price cost me less out of pocket than my 1 year at in-state community college did. Why? Because I got a full ride straight from the endowment. At community college, nearly all students qualified for financial aid so it was competitive and ran out on the 2nd day you could submit a FAFSA and there were few grants that covered the full cost. At my private school, I got a full alumni scholarship.

I'm also not a believer in rankings for undergrad, because they're mostly useless metrics that schools can manipulate easily. But I also went to a college that refused to participate in the rankings.

Yankuba

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Re: How did you choose a college?
« Reply #62 on: July 07, 2016, 03:13:50 PM »
c2f

jjcamembert

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Re: How did you choose a college?
« Reply #63 on: July 07, 2016, 03:20:43 PM »
I really had no idea what college was, or if I even wanted to go. Eventually my parents convinced me with the "you can join the military or go to college" argument. I applied to 5 schools in-state and 3 out-of-state mostly because I didn't know what I'd get in to. I had above-average, but not stellar academic scores but had significant extracurricular achievements which I thought might push me above the GPA/SAT threshold for more stringent schools (it didn't matter).

I got accepted into 4 schools and wait-listed at one, and from there I/parents narrowed it down by cost and academic prestige / rankings / programs offered / etc. I didn't visit the campus until after I had accepted. I actually didn't get into any of the schools that I had wanted to at the time, but looking back I am glad that I didn't get into those schools because I wouldn't have had the same experiences and environment that I think positively affected my personality.

Lanthiriel

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Re: How did you choose a college?
« Reply #64 on: July 07, 2016, 04:00:56 PM »
My parents said I had to stay in state or they weren't paying. I lived in the Seattle area, so I chose Washington State University because it was as far away as I could get while staying in-state. Plus they gave me a 50% scholarship. I loved everything about WSU except for being stranded in the Palouse (AKA, the endless wheat fields).

I went to grad school at Portland State University because at the time it was one of I think only two schools in the US that offered a Masters-level (not a graduate certificate) in Book Publishing. The other one I think was UPenn, which just sounded expensive. Yes, that degree is as actually useless, but strangely enough has got me in the door at a couple of jobs.
« Last Edit: July 07, 2016, 04:06:30 PM by Lanthiriel »

ysette9

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Re: How did you choose a college?
« Reply #65 on: July 07, 2016, 04:53:00 PM »
My college choice process was not something to write home about. I went to junior college for two years and decided to major in chemistry (this later became chemical engineering, thank god). For science/engineering in California, that meant I wanted to look at UC schools instead of CSU since they are stronger in general. I applied to the decent UC close by, a party school UC some friends were going to, and the top UC, UC Berkeley since my boyfriend was going there (and it is a kick-ass school). I ended up getting into all 3 and went with the one that was simultaneously the best ranked overall and for my major, and the one my boyfriend went to. :) No financial aid anywhere because I am not that awesome, but I managed to graduate with no debt and a fantastic degree. I'd do it the same all over again if I had the option.

mozar

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Re: How did you choose a college?
« Reply #66 on: July 07, 2016, 05:27:30 PM »
I lived in

« Last Edit: May 10, 2018, 01:49:42 PM by mozar »

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Re: How did you choose a college?
« Reply #67 on: July 07, 2016, 05:32:30 PM »
I am loving reading all of these!  Thanks for your replies again!  OK FINate - WHERE IS THAT SCHOOL?  Maybe I can go back (OK - or maybe I can teach there!  I have the doctorate and am FI - so I can "jump around"!  I've been at 3 colleges in the last 4 years!)

FINate

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Re: How did you choose a college?
« Reply #68 on: July 07, 2016, 11:39:37 PM »
I am loving reading all of these!  Thanks for your replies again!  OK FINate - WHERE IS THAT SCHOOL?  Maybe I can go back (OK - or maybe I can teach there!  I have the doctorate and am FI - so I can "jump around"!  I've been at 3 colleges in the last 4 years!)

That's from the campus of UC Santa Cruz. There are 10 colleges on the campus and if I recall correctly, about 3-4 have views like that. The rest are nestled in redwood or oak forests:



Incidentally, there's great mountain biking in and around the campus. I never tired of seeing that view, and I always laughed to myself when I thought about poor dorm students subsisting on ramen noodles (or more likely macrobiotic brown rice) with million dollar views.

Basenji, also very beautiful!


PFHC

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Re: How did you choose a college?
« Reply #69 on: July 08, 2016, 12:37:22 AM »
I went to Maine Maritime Academy because I had worked on a boat for a year and loved it and MMA was the best school on the planet to make a career out of seafaring.

Why seafaring? Read this:
http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/share-your-badassity/perhaps-the-single-most-mustachian-job-ever/msg791769/#msg791769

MakeSmarterDecisions

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Re: How did you choose a college?
« Reply #70 on: July 08, 2016, 05:31:05 AM »
All of the information is great - so don't negate what you have to offer!  And yes, college students eating Ramen with the views they have in some places is really interesting too! 

mm1970

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Re: How did you choose a college?
« Reply #71 on: July 08, 2016, 11:19:54 AM »
My college choice process was not something to write home about. I went to junior college for two years and decided to major in chemistry (this later became chemical engineering, thank god). For science/engineering in California, that meant I wanted to look at UC schools instead of CSU since they are stronger in general. I applied to the decent UC close by, a party school UC some friends were going to, and the top UC, UC Berkeley since my boyfriend was going there (and it is a kick-ass school). I ended up getting into all 3 and went with the one that was simultaneously the best ranked overall and for my major, and the one my boyfriend went to. :) No financial aid anywhere because I am not that awesome, but I managed to graduate with no debt and a fantastic degree. I'd do it the same all over again if I had the option.
I enjoyed this.  For the record, I live in SB and my husband got his PhD at UCSB.

I interviewed a fellow chemical engineer about 19 years ago.  She was fresh out of undergrad and had been working as a contract employee.  I asked her how she chose chemical engineering.

"Well, I was in a community college, working at the grocery store, majoring in Art History.  I was in the cafeteria at the school and heard some nerds complain about how hard calculus was.  I took calc in HS and told them they were whiners.  So we made a bet - I bet them I could get an A in calc.  And I did.  Then I asked myself 'what the hell am I doing in Art History?'  So I changed to chemistry, then transferred to the state school for Chem Eng."

I also have an acquaintance who got her Chem E PhD at UCSB, was a prof at Berkeley, and now is a prof at UCSB.

nobody123

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Re: How did you choose a college?
« Reply #72 on: July 08, 2016, 02:51:51 PM »
When I realized that I couldn't afford to go visit all of the universities that sent me glossy brochures, I narrowed it down to a handful of universities in my state.  I wanted to be far enough away from my parents so they couldn't just drop by, but be close enough that I could get home easily enough if need be.  So, I looked at the programs schools that met that geographic criteria offered, and applied to a couple.  I went to the one that gave me a full tuition, room and board.  My only regret was not holding out for a book scholarship too.

The one criteria, other than the aid package, that I will make sure my kids consider is the strength of the internship / co-op / career services department.  The internship that I did the summer between junior and senior year was far more valuable than anything I learned on campus over the 8 semesters of classes, and resulted in a job offer.  When I was interviewing right before graduation, almost every interviewer asked about my internship and what I learned; none of them cared about my classwork.  As a person that hires and fires people, I honestly couldn't care less about what school they received a bachelor's degree from, as long as it wasn't a for-profit diploma mill.


MakeSmarterDecisions

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Re: How did you choose a college?
« Reply #73 on: July 08, 2016, 03:05:23 PM »
The career services and internship piece is another really important point.  Definitely the trend on this thread of many folks who had their educations paid for (or mostly paid for!)  I wish I could do a survey/poll of some type!

trashmanz

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Re: How did you choose a college?
« Reply #74 on: July 08, 2016, 03:37:29 PM »
After I toured the various campuses I went with the one that felt right to me.

Angel_fire

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Re: How did you choose a college?
« Reply #75 on: July 08, 2016, 08:05:36 PM »
Easy to answer...
UNC-Chapel Hill chose me for graduate work while Campbell University offered a free ride to allow me to become a Carolina Alumni. 

Best decision I've ever made. 

MakeSmarterDecisions

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Re: How did you choose a college?
« Reply #76 on: July 08, 2016, 08:06:57 PM »
Can I ask in what field?

Sailor Sam

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Re: How did you choose a college?
« Reply #77 on: July 08, 2016, 08:20:07 PM »
I went to Maine Maritime Academy because I had worked on a boat for a year and loved it and MMA was the best school on the planet to make a career out of seafaring.

Why seafaring? Read this:
http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/share-your-badassity/perhaps-the-single-most-mustachian-job-ever/msg791769/#msg791769

PFHC, my dad very kindly forked over the money to fly me to Maine Maritime when I was 17. I was certain I wanted to go. Certain.

Then the actual visit, in January. The snow piles were above my head. It was balls cold. The kids I spent the night with showed me Stephen King's fence, then admitted that was the most exciting thing to see.

I went to Mass instead.

PFHC

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Re: How did you choose a college?
« Reply #78 on: July 08, 2016, 08:40:29 PM »
PFHC, my dad very kindly forked over the money to fly me to Maine Maritime when I was 17. I was certain I wanted to go. Certain.

Then the actual visit, in January. The snow piles were above my head. It was balls cold. The kids I spent the night with showed me Stephen King's fence, then admitted that was the most exciting thing to see.

I went to Mass instead.
That's why they put it way down there at the end of the world. Weeds out the weak right from the start. ;)

Are you engine or deck?

Sailor Sam

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Re: How did you choose a college?
« Reply #79 on: July 08, 2016, 08:48:22 PM »
PFHC, my dad very kindly forked over the money to fly me to Maine Maritime when I was 17. I was certain I wanted to go. Certain.

Then the actual visit, in January. The snow piles were above my head. It was balls cold. The kids I spent the night with showed me Stephen King's fence, then admitted that was the most exciting thing to see.

I went to Mass instead.
That's why they put it way down there at the end of the world. Weeds out the weak right from the start. ;)

Are you engine or deck?

Well, the weed out method certainly worked for me. I'm deck by birth, and USCG by the Grace of God ;)

Pigeon

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Re: How did you choose a college?
« Reply #80 on: July 08, 2016, 09:24:55 PM »
I had little idea of what I was doing and my parents provided no real guidance despite me being the 5th kid they were putting through college. I ended up applying to most of the schools before my parents took me for a campus visit and this was long before the virtual tour. I wanted a biggish university with no religious affiliation with a good program in my major. I wanted a small college town environment. I ended up out of state at the University of New Hamphire as in those days there wasn't a huge difference in out of state tuitions.

I think important factors vary a great deal depending on your field. DD is at SUNY Geneseo. Great school, good price, nice campus. She will need professional school after and it is a good choice for doing that.

MakeSmarterDecisions

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Re: How did you choose a college?
« Reply #81 on: July 09, 2016, 07:13:49 AM »
My DD is at SUNY Geneseo too!  LOVE IT!  My son is looking at the University of New Hampshire and a few other out of state universities - exactly as you described.  Some have programs now to lessen the blow of "out of state" - so we are definitely looking in to those!

FIREby35

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Re: How did you choose a college?
« Reply #82 on: July 09, 2016, 08:06:16 AM »
The #1 factor you should consider is graduating without debt. Above all the other things the school has to offer (period).

Graduate without debt and you are miles ahead of your peers.

MakeSmarterDecisions

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Re: How did you choose a college?
« Reply #83 on: July 09, 2016, 08:11:00 AM »
I definitely agree FIREby35.  Student loan debt is out of control and some parents are leveraging their retirement years to put kids through college - without great results. There are many folks here though who had full rides at more than one college and a few who had college paid for by another means. I am also writing about ways to make decisions about college even if money isn't a factor.  Thanks for your comment!

Lagom

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Re: How did you choose a college?
« Reply #84 on: July 09, 2016, 10:32:53 AM »
Not sure I agree about no debt always being the #1 priority, honestly, although it is certainly important, especially for students who need to "find themselves" in college (although they really should take a gap year instead imo). For one extremely easy example, you should definitely go into debt to go to a top law school over a lower tier one, unless you plan to open your own practice. Additionally, in many industries, the name of the school on your resume has a very tangible effect on your salary. Going 100k into debt is mathematically worth it, after all, if your salary is sufficiently higher out of undergrad than it would have been coming from another school.

Now someone is going to say that you can accomplish anything coming from any school, and that is more or less true, of course. But that doesn't mean it's not a hell of a lot easier to find the best internships, highest paying entry level jobs, fast tracked promotional opportunities, etc., with a Stanford degree than with a diploma from Humboldt State. If you want to be something like a programmer, however, there is a lot you can do in the way of side projects to make the prestige of your school largely irrelevant (although the big name school will still make scoring those Google interviews easier).

To be clear, I am no elitist, I'm just saying your goals in life matter when making this sort of decision. As I mentioned earlier, I think the best of both worlds (especially for people entering non technical career paths) is minimal debt with maximum alumni network reach. For example, go to a community college for two years, blow away every class, and transfer to the school with the best combination of scholarships/prestige/alumni network that accepts you, erring towards the first and last of those criteria. 

All of the above (and this whole thread really) doesn't matter if we're talking about a student who is a true world-beater with an uncommon clarity of vision, but those aren't the people who need our advice anyway.

FIREby35

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Re: How did you choose a college?
« Reply #85 on: July 09, 2016, 12:02:24 PM »
Not sure I agree about no debt always being the #1 priority, honestly, although it is certainly important, especially for students who need to "find themselves" in college (although they really should take a gap year instead imo). For one extremely easy example, you should definitely go into debt to go to a top law school over a lower tier one, unless you plan to open your own practice. Additionally, in many industries, the name of the school on your resume has a very tangible effect on your salary. Going 100k into debt is mathematically worth it, after all, if your salary is sufficiently higher out of undergrad than it would have been coming from another school.

Now someone is going to say that you can accomplish anything coming from any school, and that is more or less true, of course. But that doesn't mean it's not a hell of a lot easier to find the best internships, highest paying entry level jobs, fast tracked promotional opportunities, etc., with a Stanford degree than with a diploma from Humboldt State. If you want to be something like a programmer, however, there is a lot you can do in the way of side projects to make the prestige of your school largely irrelevant (although the big name school will still make scoring those Google interviews easier).

To be clear, I am no elitist, I'm just saying your goals in life matter when making this sort of decision. As I mentioned earlier, I think the best of both worlds (especially for people entering non technical career paths) is minimal debt with maximum alumni network reach. For example, go to a community college for two years, blow away every class, and transfer to the school with the best combination of scholarships/prestige/alumni network that accepts you, erring towards the first and last of those criteria. 

All of the above (and this whole thread really) doesn't matter if we're talking about a student who is a true world-beater with an uncommon clarity of vision, but those aren't the people who need our advice anyway.

Lagom - What you just said about law school as an "extremely easy example" totally conflicts with everything I believe - and I'm a law school graduate.

The first big question for a lawyer (or anyone going to college) is WHERE to go. But, it seems to me the general consensus is all wrong. Especially for lawyers. Everyone starts with this list: US News and World Report Law School Rankings.

Let me just say this: OMG. Does anyone notice that nearly every school on that list costs $50,000+ dollars. Columbia costs $60,000 and, even more shockingly, has over 1170 students signing up for a future of indentured servitude paying of high six figure student loans. *

But, besides indignation, what do I have to offer? Well, how about this list: The National Jurist Best Value Law Schools.

Think about that value list. It costs $14,479 a year to go to the University of Nebraska. A law school ranked a respectable #56 on US News and World Report list. Somehow, Nebraska can only convince 359 students to spurn a life of debt repayment and accept professional freedom.

So letís have it out, Yale v. Nebraska, a battle of #1ís. Rule against perpetuities? Same. Palsgraf? Same. Carbollic Smoke Balls? Same.  Your own intelligence and grit? Same.** The amount of money you owe banks and your resultant freedom: Big Time Difference.

Here is the thing, I went to one of the value law schools on that list. In my community if a new law grad comes back from Prestigious/Expensive University to our community they compete with Value University graduates. Rather than being impressed at their job interview, where I am in charge of hiring, I think something like this:

Wow, this person really blew the first big decision they had in their law career. They went to the Prestigious/Expensive University and paid through the nose for their degree. Then, rather than pursue a career path to the United States Supreme Court***, which might (maybe) justify their decision, they came back to Value University territory. What a waste. Just imagine if they would have attended Value University on a full/partial scholarship instead. Let's hire the successful value law school grad instead.

So let me make my position clear ĖThere are two certainties in life. One, donít use the first list. Two, you shouldnít drop $150,000 on a law degree you could have got for $50,000 and some late fees.

_________________________________________________

* Indentured servitude is only a slight exaggeration. Iím convinced Big Law, the brass ring so many reach for, love law grads from the US News and World Reports Rankings because they are so indebted they can never leave their job until the loans are paid. They have golden handcuffs and you can bet the partners know it. Itís all part of the cycle that is obvious to most indentured servants, cough, lawyers, about six months into their crap BigLaw job. As a side note, I was talking to a BigLaw associate the other day and they block the internet of their attorneys like they are freaking children (No facebook!) - what an awesome future to aspire to. I also  recently heard the term "night shift" to describe the office time put in after going home for a quick dinner and two hour reprieve. No thanks.

** Please Google "selection bias" and learn why your faith in institutions is utterly misplaced. You are the biggest predictor of your own success.

*** It would have to be the US Supreme Court because the State Supreme Court, State County/District Courts, Federal Court of Appeals, Federal District Court, State Legislature, Governorís mansion and any other place of political or legal significance is, of course, packed with Value University grads. If there is any ceiling at all (which I personally doubt), then it is the highest, highest of echelons that only the elitiest of the elite ever run up against.

Lagom

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Re: How did you choose a college?
« Reply #86 on: July 09, 2016, 12:55:43 PM »
I'll ignore the condescension in your post and just address why it misses my point. I will admit I was more tautological than I should have been, but I wasn't trying to write to an audience of lawyers ;p

Yes, of course if you break it down that way your argument makes sense, but that's not what I meant by my statement. Literally any scenario can be contradicted when you tweak a variable or two. All I'm saying is that in a general sense, if your goal is to work in BigLaw (which for sure sounds like a terrible job, but who am I to judge), or for a prestigious corporation, or be a judge/law professor, etc., Going to a top 14 school is a no brainer if you have the chance. If your goal is to maximize FIRE potential it gets a bit muddier, I'll grant. If you don't mind the horrendous work/life balance, T14 -> BigLaw seems like it's still probably the fastest avenue, since you can pay off even $150k+ in debt in a year or two (if you think that's impossible, as you imply, you need to study up on the entire philosophy behind this site). That said, I would personally aim at a top ~50-75 school in that instance and go to the highest ranked one in the region I wanted to work that offered the best aid package. But now we're tweaking variables :)

To reiterate my broader point, context matters. Depending on your goals, student debt can in fact make mathematical sense and/or be worth it to achieve a career pinnacle (say to be a professor at a prestigious school), if that's your priority. It's far too reductive to say graduating without debt > any other factor.

*Please Google "selection bias" if you think the prestige of an institution has little to no impact on the likelihood of success for people with goals similar to the ones I detailed above, simply because you know of people who achieved them by another path. OK, so I was almost able to ignore the condescension... ;)

« Last Edit: July 09, 2016, 01:14:16 PM by Lagom »

FIREby35

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Re: How did you choose a college?
« Reply #87 on: July 09, 2016, 03:10:07 PM »
I'll ignore the condescension in your post and just address why it misses my point. I will admit I was more tautological than I should have been, but I wasn't trying to write to an audience of lawyers ;p

Yes, of course if you break it down that way your argument makes sense, but that's not what I meant by my statement. Literally any scenario can be contradicted when you tweak a variable or two. All I'm saying is that in a general sense, if your goal is to work in BigLaw (which for sure sounds like a terrible job, but who am I to judge), or for a prestigious corporation, or be a judge/law professor, etc., Going to a top 14 school is a no brainer if you have the chance. If your goal is to maximize FIRE potential it gets a bit muddier, I'll grant. If you don't mind the horrendous work/life balance, T14 -> BigLaw seems like it's still probably the fastest avenue, since you can pay off even $150k+ in debt in a year or two (if you think that's impossible, as you imply, you need to study up on the entire philosophy behind this site). That said, I would personally aim at a top ~50-75 school in that instance and go to the highest ranked one in the region I wanted to work that offered the best aid package. But now we're tweaking variables :)

To reiterate my broader point, context matters. Depending on your goals, student debt can in fact make mathematical sense and/or be worth it to achieve a career pinnacle (say to be a professor at a prestigious school), if that's your priority. It's far too reductive to say graduating without debt > any other factor.

*Please Google "selection bias" if you think the prestige of an institution has little to no impact on the likelihood of success for people with goals similar to the ones I detailed above, simply because you know of people who achieved them by another path. OK, so I was almost able to ignore the condescension... ;)

BTW, the condescension wasn't just for you :) I actually wrote that entire thing for a blog I never published. So, I was literally the worst person you could have said that to in the entire world! I'll let our respective posts stand on their merits. EXCEPT, I'd ask you to consider one thing: you point to the philosophy of the site making paying off 150k possible. That is obviously true. I'd point to the philosophy of the site being against taking 150k in debt in the first place.

P.S. The goals you are describing, being a Prestigious University professor, US Supreme Court, other high position require people with high ambition and grit. That is the selection bias I'm talking about. Their ambition and grit will take them 99% of the places they want to go. You countered from a different angle, that I've seen other people achieve ambitious goals from Value University and those people are the exception rather than the rule and I'm using them to prove a point. I don't think that is actually true. The Supreme Court of the United States is full of Harvard and Yale graduate only. However, if you look at federal courts of appeal, they are full of people who graduated from Value Universities. That is simply a fact. The same is true, and even more exaggerated, for state courts. To continue with the Nebraska example, their [Supreme Court and Court of Appeals (Link to their names and resumes) are full of Value University grads. It's not that they achieved it through other means and are, therefore, proving the exception to the rule. They are in fact the rule for how to achieve highly ambitious goals.

P.P. S. Thanks for giving me an opportunity to use a blog post I wrote many moons ago and, until your post, was destined to never been seen by even a single other person :)

« Last Edit: July 09, 2016, 03:40:43 PM by FIREby35 »

Lagom

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Re: How did you choose a college?
« Reply #88 on: July 09, 2016, 03:23:44 PM »
I'll ignore the condescension in your post and just address why it misses my point. I will admit I was more tautological than I should have been, but I wasn't trying to write to an audience of lawyers ;p

Yes, of course if you break it down that way your argument makes sense, but that's not what I meant by my statement. Literally any scenario can be contradicted when you tweak a variable or two. All I'm saying is that in a general sense, if your goal is to work in BigLaw (which for sure sounds like a terrible job, but who am I to judge), or for a prestigious corporation, or be a judge/law professor, etc., Going to a top 14 school is a no brainer if you have the chance. If your goal is to maximize FIRE potential it gets a bit muddier, I'll grant. If you don't mind the horrendous work/life balance, T14 -> BigLaw seems like it's still probably the fastest avenue, since you can pay off even $150k+ in debt in a year or two (if you think that's impossible, as you imply, you need to study up on the entire philosophy behind this site). That said, I would personally aim at a top ~50-75 school in that instance and go to the highest ranked one in the region I wanted to work that offered the best aid package. But now we're tweaking variables :)

To reiterate my broader point, context matters. Depending on your goals, student debt can in fact make mathematical sense and/or be worth it to achieve a career pinnacle (say to be a professor at a prestigious school), if that's your priority. It's far too reductive to say graduating without debt > any other factor.

*Please Google "selection bias" if you think the prestige of an institution has little to no impact on the likelihood of success for people with goals similar to the ones I detailed above, simply because you know of people who achieved them by another path. OK, so I was almost able to ignore the condescension... ;)

BTW, the condescension wasn't just for you :) I actually wrote that entire thing for a blog I never published. So, I was literally the worst person you could have said that to in the entire world! I'll let our respective posts stand on their merits. EXCEPT, I'd ask you to consider one thing: you point to the philosophy of the site making paying off 150k possible. That is obviously true. I'd point to the philosophy of the site being against taking 150k in debt in the first place.

P.S. Thanks for giving me an opportunity to use a blog post I wrote many moons ago and, until your post, was destined to never been seen by even a single other person :)

Ha, well I can't argue with you getting some mileage out of past work! I mean, you are more or less right about taking on the debt, although I think responsibly taking on debt to maximize long-term gains is arguably within the MMM philosophy (depending on how long that term is anyway). But on the law school angle specifically, I would definitely go the route you suggest if it were for myself or if I were advising a friend/loved one. BigLaw seems like a terribly soul and body crushing career path to me, but can certainly be a lucrative one.

Anyhoo, I mostly just intended it to be a throwaway example of why debt need not necessarily be the most important factor when looking at schools, depending on the specific goals of the student. I would avoid debt myself, but I think that path can work for the right kind of person who knows what they're getting into.

Clean Shaven

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Re: How did you choose a college?
« Reply #89 on: July 09, 2016, 03:33:31 PM »
I'll contribute a not very useful data point for the OP -

As a California resident in the early 1990s, with good SAT and grades, I applied only to UC schools - because I only had to fill out one form and write one essay. Check a box for the schools to send the applications to, and done. I picked four.

Laziness, basically.

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Re: How did you choose a college?
« Reply #90 on: July 09, 2016, 03:37:40 PM »
I realize I'm not the target audience of what you're looking for, but I did not go to college right after high school.  Just was not interested. At. all.  At 33 as a wife and mom of two, I got tired of hamster wheeling through low paid jobs and decided it was time.  DH did too.  He went first to Nebraska Wesleyan University because they had a respected evening class program that was one night a week that allowed him to keep working and doing father duties.  I then attended the local community college and will finish out at University of Nebraska Medical Center also doing an evening program.  DH has his bachelors degree, I'm almost there.  We chose our schools solely on the schedule of the school.  Being non-traditional students, scheduling was the single most important piece of the puzzle, after cost.  We had to be able to attend nights and weekends or it wasn't going to happen due to employment/kid/class schedule conflicts.

FINate

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Re: How did you choose a college?
« Reply #91 on: July 09, 2016, 06:16:51 PM »
Now someone is going to say that you can accomplish anything coming from any school, and that is more or less true, of course. But that doesn't mean it's not a hell of a lot easier to find the best internships, highest paying entry level jobs, fast tracked promotional opportunities, etc., with a Stanford degree than with a diploma from Humboldt State. If you want to be something like a programmer, however, there is a lot you can do in the way of side projects to make the prestige of your school largely irrelevant (although the big name school will still make scoring those Google interviews easier).

Former Google Engineer here who conducted somewhere around 300 interviews while there. You are completely wrong for engineering/technical positions (can't speak to the G&A side of things which is a very different world). Great programmers are hard to find, so we recruited from a broad cross section of schools and backgrounds. If you attended a decent school and completed a CS degree (or similar) then chances are we would schedule a 45 min phone screen. If you do well you will almost certainly be brought in for a day of on-site interviews. If you don't have the fundamentals of CS down, or you are not a proficient programmer, you will likely not get very far in the process. Yes it is very possible to obtain a CS degree while not being solid on either/both. I've witnessed this with candidates from both noname state and prestigious schools. This is the reason for vetting candidates in the interview process. Bottom line: What you learn and can apply to demonstrate your skills in an interview is much more important than the name of your alma mater, which doesn't count for much.
« Last Edit: July 09, 2016, 06:20:19 PM by FINate »

MakeSmarterDecisions

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Re: How did you choose a college?
« Reply #92 on: July 09, 2016, 07:41:55 PM »
Wow - went away for the afternoon and came back to some awesome discussion!  And yes - non-traditional is great too! Loving reading all of these responses.  Feel like a new article may be brewing...

Davids

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Re: How did you choose a college?
« Reply #93 on: July 09, 2016, 07:50:21 PM »
I went to a state school. I did not see any benefit to going to an expensive private university unless it is Ivy League or close to that level and I did not have those grades or SAT scores so a state school was for me.

Lagom

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Re: How did you choose a college?
« Reply #94 on: July 09, 2016, 08:28:28 PM »
Now someone is going to say that you can accomplish anything coming from any school, and that is more or less true, of course. But that doesn't mean it's not a hell of a lot easier to find the best internships, highest paying entry level jobs, fast tracked promotional opportunities, etc., with a Stanford degree than with a diploma from Humboldt State. If you want to be something like a programmer, however, there is a lot you can do in the way of side projects to make the prestige of your school largely irrelevant (although the big name school will still make scoring those Google interviews easier).

Former Google Engineer here who conducted somewhere around 300 interviews while there. You are completely wrong for engineering/technical positions (can't speak to the G&A side of things which is a very different world). Great programmers are hard to find, so we recruited from a broad cross section of schools and backgrounds. If you attended a decent school and completed a CS degree (or similar) then chances are we would schedule a 45 min phone screen. If you do well you will almost certainly be brought in for a day of on-site interviews. If you don't have the fundamentals of CS down, or you are not a proficient programmer, you will likely not get very far in the process. Yes it is very possible to obtain a CS degree while not being solid on either/both. I've witnessed this with candidates from both noname state and prestigious schools. This is the reason for vetting candidates in the interview process. Bottom line: What you learn and can apply to demonstrate your skills in an interview is much more important than the name of your alma mater, which doesn't count for much.

Yeesh, I guess this is what I get for not being super specific with my language. People come out to nitpick the details of my broader point. But I see why you did so, so allow me to clarify. First, even if I am totally off base with what was clearly a throwaway part of the comment, it's silly to call me "completely wrong," when I very explicitly stated that school prestige matters much more for non technical jobs. This is made clear literally right before the part you decided to bold. In other words, in the context of the OP, I already agreed with your fundamental premise about the value of school pedigree for aspiring (software) engineers.

Second, by "interview," I meant the phone screen, or getting past whatever first hurdle/gatekeeper exists in the process. I know engineering is a "meritocracy" and all that jazz, but I have a hard time believing that having a more prestigious school on your resume doesn't help at least some when it comes to getting recruited as an undergrad (I am aware it basically doesn't matter once you have actual work experience). Also, Google (and similar companies) may recruit from 20 or 50 or 100 schools, but don't tell me there aren't solid programmers coming from a great many more schools than that, whatever your number. And I know the industry well enough to know that job-ready programming skills are almost always learned through actual work experience/internships, and not in the classroom. I wonder what the average school ranking is for Google interns? I would be willing to bet it's not low. Of course, the overall quality of programmer is probably lower from lower ranked schools, and you have to draw the line somewhere, but that's exactly my point. Nevertheless, this paragraph is largely pointless because I agree with you that any advantage gained here is a small one at best.

Edit - All of that said, if I were advising a student who wanted to be a programmer, I would definitely tell them to go to the school with the best scholarship offer, almost regardless of it's reputation, as long as they were confident they could fill any relevant knowledge gaps on the side.
« Last Edit: July 09, 2016, 08:42:02 PM by Lagom »

FINate

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Re: How did you choose a college?
« Reply #95 on: July 10, 2016, 12:30:47 AM »
Yeesh, I guess this is what I get for not being super specific with my language. People come out to nitpick the details of my broader point. But I see why you did so, so allow me to clarify. First, even if I am totally off base with what was clearly a throwaway part of the comment, it's silly to call me "completely wrong," when I very explicitly stated that school prestige matters much more for non technical jobs. This is made clear literally right before the part you decided to bold. In other words, in the context of the OP, I already agreed with your fundamental premise about the value of school pedigree for aspiring (software) engineers.

Second, by "interview," I meant the phone screen, or getting past whatever first hurdle/gatekeeper exists in the process. I know engineering is a "meritocracy" and all that jazz, but I have a hard time believing that having a more prestigious school on your resume doesn't help at least some when it comes to getting recruited as an undergrad (I am aware it basically doesn't matter once you have actual work experience). Also, Google (and similar companies) may recruit from 20 or 50 or 100 schools, but don't tell me there aren't solid programmers coming from a great many more schools than that, whatever your number. And I know the industry well enough to know that job-ready programming skills are almost always learned through actual work experience/internships, and not in the classroom. I wonder what the average school ranking is for Google interns? I would be willing to bet it's not low. Of course, the overall quality of programmer is probably lower from lower ranked schools, and you have to draw the line somewhere, but that's exactly my point. Nevertheless, this paragraph is largely pointless because I agree with you that any advantage gained here is a small one at best.

Edit - All of that said, if I were advising a student who wanted to be a programmer, I would definitely tell them to go to the school with the best scholarship offer, almost regardless of it's reputation, as long as they were confident they could fill any relevant knowledge gaps on the side.

Sorry if I overreacted. It's just such a common misconception. In software development it really does not matter for getting past that first gatekeeper. We actively recruited undergrads from large number of schools, not just the top 20, 50 or 100. We hosted interns from a diverse rankings of schools. We held hiring fairs at a large number of schools where we had many short in person interviews to find the best candidates.  Good programmers are scattered throughout the population so it's better to concentrate on getting the top students from many schools rather than a large number of grads from each of the top schools. In my anecdotal experience the quality of candidates is fairly normally distributed regardless of the school ranking. I will say that the average quality from a highly ranked school was slightly better, but not by much and in any case that's not important when you're only selecting the top.

woopwoop

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Re: How did you choose a college?
« Reply #96 on: July 16, 2016, 06:05:30 PM »
That's from the campus of UC Santa Cruz. There are 10 colleges on the campus and if I recall correctly, about 3-4 have views like that. The rest are nestled in redwood or oak forests:



Incidentally, there's great mountain biking in and around the campus. I never tired of seeing that view, and I always laughed to myself when I thought about poor dorm students subsisting on ramen noodles (or more likely macrobiotic brown rice) with million dollar views.
Hey, I was just up at UCSC to play their disc golf course. Absolutely gorgeous views! I hope my kid wants to go there so I can visit her a lot :)

ender

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Re: How did you choose a college?
« Reply #97 on: July 16, 2016, 06:26:58 PM »
Wow you guys did a lot more thinking than I did. I wanted to do engineering, applied to two schools, and went to the one I thought had a beautiful campus (this as a guy. lol).

It was out of state since at the time, my I didn't like the main state university where I grew up and out of state tuition where I ended up going was cheaper anyways (without knowing how much I would have gotten in financial aid instate, I guess).


Hindsight being 20/20, I would have thought a loot more about cost and based my decision more off of that. I didn't end up with debt due to about 1/3 scholarships, internship/savings, and parental assistance. But... I would have been much better off going to the decent schools with reciprocity that would have met my needs just as much. Though I don't mind since I benefited a lot anyways.

MakeSmarterDecisions

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Re: How did you choose a college?
« Reply #98 on: July 17, 2016, 06:05:54 AM »
Thanks ender!  I think the financial piece is certainly on more people's minds than it ever was in the past. We just took my son on his first college visit and he is just beginning to make sense of the numbers. He can't understand why schools are so expensive (and I agree for many of them). He also just got 4 college flyers (nice glossy 5 or 6 pagers) in the mail from colleges he has never heard of - such a waste of money. His first words - don't they know it's 2016 and we look things up online?

okonumiyaki

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Re: How did you choose a college?
« Reply #99 on: July 17, 2016, 07:08:08 AM »
Decided to study engineering.  Went on visit to best school in the UK (Imperial)  10:1 male/ female ratio, no thanks

Went to visit 2nd best school (Cambridge)  They had Saturday morning lectures.  No thanks, and Cambridge was too much a small town

Went to 3rd best school (Oxford)  The place was buzzing.  No Saturday lectures.  Sold

As for my college - went for the one which had it's own deer park.  Because why wouldn't you...?