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Learning, Sharing, and Teaching => Ask a Mustachian => Topic started by: MakeSmarterDecisions on July 02, 2016, 11:48:18 AM

Title: How did you choose a college?
Post by: MakeSmarterDecisions on July 02, 2016, 11:48:18 AM
I'm working on an article about how to help students (and parents) with choosing a college.  (I have been a reader here since the beginning and I understand many people think you don't need college, but I'm trying to help those who do make that choice.)  When I was in school in the 80's we had big college catalogs we picked up in the guidance office and borrowed to learn more about schools.  I visited local campuses and then made a couple of road trips to check out two schools I thought I might like - but that was about it in terms of my college search.  If you have a minute - can you answer these two questions?
1) How did you find the college you went to?
2) What were your top 1 or 2 factors in making your final decision?
Thanks for your help!

I tried to search the forums for this with a number of search terms and didn't find much and also got an error message.
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: ltt on July 02, 2016, 01:03:19 PM
Our son's high school has an evening where colleges come into the school and set up so students can see what the various colleges have to offer.  Our son had a goal in mind and that was to go to school in the state we live in.  I think he wanted to go to a school where one of his friends is attending, and he also liked one of the colleges because they had a band program.  He did the road trips and visited two schools, like you mentioned you did. 

The first school we visited was a very large public school with over 20,000 students.  The student advisor who gave us the run down would not go over things again when I had to step out and attend to our other children.  He son seemed very tired and not interested, although he was definitely interested in their computer lab.

The second school he visited was a private school with around 200 students in each class.  It was much more personal, has a great music program (even though that is not what he is majoring in) and overall he just liked it.

So, for him and us, the top two factors were (1) money---he had to get a scholarship before he would be able to attend, which he did; and (2) the college had to offer the program that he liked and he had to be able to play music in addition, which he will be able to do.

 
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: Lagom on July 02, 2016, 01:18:49 PM
As someone who now works for a major university, my answers to those questions are different than the advice I would give, which would be go to a top school if you can get into one, and failing that, go to the one you get into with the most robust alumni network. If you get into more than one top school, choose the one with the most robust alumni network, especially if you plan to major in something non technical. This advice doesn't apply if you are going to be something like a scientist or engineer (or an academic), in which case program reputation is probably more important. Things do get more complicated when you start comparing relative student loan burdens, of course, so the above is more of an "all things being equal" sort of perspective. 

That said, college is not necessarily a mandatory experience (as you acknowledge), and it's also not that hard to still be successful at a lower tier school, as long as you follow other usual advice about networking, internships, etc. I am also assuming that the goal is a high earning and/or "successful" career (as in work for a prestigious company or nonprofit, get promoted rapidly, etc.) for all of the above. If it's just to have a great experience and get some kind of reasonable job, any college that "feels" good can work just fine. In that instance, I think the main things that should be considered are location, campus life (party school or not, extracurriculars, amenities, etc.), and the size of the student population. 
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: pbkmaine on July 02, 2016, 01:52:54 PM
I always wanted to go to Cornell. I liked the diversity of the student body and the coursework as well as the mix of private and land-grant colleges. Not to mention the fabulous beauty of the place. My parents wanted me at an Ivy. The stars aligned. I had a terrific experience and got both my AB and MBA there.
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: randymarsh on July 02, 2016, 02:14:41 PM
Begrudgingly.

I was so burnt out/lazy at the end of HS I put little effort in researching schools. The out of state school I visited was nice but when the financial aid package came in there was no way I could do it. That left 2 in state schools. One was OSU, with 50000 students. I never even went on a campus visit; seemed like too much work.

That meant I was going to the smaller state school by default. The quality of my education was great, IMO.  But I can't shake the feeling that I settled with the overall choice. OSU isn't an Ivy, but I think the stronger alumni network, living further away from home, and the high number of students would have been good for me. The school I went to didn't push me out of my comfort zone enough.

It all worked out though I guess. I moved after graduation and my career has been going great. I just wish I'd gotten more out of those 4 years. That's more on me though than my school. I wish I'd studied harder, made more friends, taken risks, etc.
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: MakeSmarterDecisions on July 02, 2016, 02:19:14 PM
Excellent replies so far!  Thanks so much!  I live a couple hours from Cornell and went to school in Rochester, NY. I also work at both a public and private college now - so I am just trying to take in some perspectives as I get ready to write. 
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: Spork on July 02, 2016, 02:51:55 PM
LOL... okay... here goes.

I planned on majoring in computer science, so I asked my high school computer teacher what in-state schools had good programs.  He gave me 3 or 4 choices... and then mentioned something about how choice #3 was a good computer school, but should probably be ruled out because it was a party school and was "the only one in the state with a bar on campus."  (I have no idea if it was the only one with a bar, but that was what he said.)

So: I chose choice #3 based on his feedback.
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: Gondolin on July 02, 2016, 02:55:05 PM
So...RIT or U of R?:P

Another Cornell grad here (hi pbkmaine!)

Top factors were:
1) Strength /rep of the program I was applying to
2) Size of financial aid package relative to total cost
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: Rural on July 02, 2016, 03:35:42 PM

 I went to the one that gave me a full ride.


I applied to a number of aspirational schools (based on reputation) and a safety school near home. I got in everywhere, but the safety school was the full ride, so there I went.
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: SoccerLounge on July 02, 2016, 05:01:08 PM

 I went to the one that gave me a full ride.


I applied to a number of aspirational schools (based on reputation) and a safety school near home. I got in everywhere, but the safety school was the full ride, so there I went.

This, and the advice about program quality for technical/science majors (which I was). I have a lot of useful data for that side of things, but embarrassingly little for the liberal arts side of things, so I hope we have a few more of those folks chime in :)
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: MakeSmarterDecisions on July 02, 2016, 05:20:42 PM
Again - super helpful.  For you NY folks, I went to Nazareth College for BS and MS (and yep, I had to get both degrees - NY State requires teachers to have a MS degree so you have to "do college" and pay the state a ton for certifications and many, many tests...)  I got my doctorate at the U of R and I taught at Elmira College, Potsdam, Brockport and at the U of R too (sounds like I can't hold a job - but's that's what FI will allow you to do!)  That was after 23 years in an awesome public school too!

Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: Altons Bobs on July 02, 2016, 05:45:09 PM
I chose the lowest cost college that was accredited in my field of study. Not just the lowest cost, but I compared the living expenses in different areas and the one I chose had the lowest living expenses. I had no money and my dad didn't really want to help me pay for college, so I had little choice.
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: Lagom on July 02, 2016, 05:47:25 PM

 I went to the one that gave me a full ride.


I applied to a number of aspirational schools (based on reputation) and a safety school near home. I got in everywhere, but the safety school was the full ride, so there I went.

This, and the advice about program quality for technical/science majors (which I was). I have a lot of useful data for that side of things, but embarrassingly little for the liberal arts side of things, so I hope we have a few more of those folks chime in :)

I was a liberal arts major and have a B.A. and M.A. I briefly considered a PhD and know many who pursued that route. In my opinion, for those majors school pedigree >= strength of the alumni network (these often, though not always, go hand in hand) >>> reputation of the specific program (e.g. sociology). The only exception is if you want to pursue an advanced degree in your subject matter, especially at a PhD level (double so if you want to be a professor). In those cases, program reputation is almost as important as school reputation, and the alumni network is fairly irrelevant.

If you want to do something like get a communications degree and then work in marketing, however, the alumni network is probably the most valuable consideration (especially in the region you intend to live/work), all other things being equal. Of course low student debt load also should be a strong consideration for these majors, but I would personally still choose a school with a substantially higher pedigree over a worse school that offered scholarships (let's say at least two full "tiers" apart in their reputations. Also assuming the better school had a stronger alumni community). I interact with a large number of executives in a variety of industries for my work and it has become extremely obvious to me just how valuable a baked-in network can be for a young grad.
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: Rural on July 02, 2016, 07:27:11 PM

 I went to the one that gave me a full ride.


I applied to a number of aspirational schools (based on reputation) and a safety school near home. I got in everywhere, but the safety school was the full ride, so there I went.

This, and the advice about program quality for technical/science majors (which I was). I have a lot of useful data for that side of things, but embarrassingly little for the liberal arts side of things, so I hope we have a few more of those folks chime in :)

I was a liberal arts major and have a B.A. and M.A. I briefly considered a PhD and know many who pursued that route. In my opinion, for those majors school pedigree >= strength of the alumni network (these often, though not always, go hand in hand) >>> reputation of the specific program (e.g. sociology). The only exception is if you want to pursue an advanced degree in your subject matter, especially at a PhD level (double so if you want to be a professor). In those cases, program reputation is almost as important as school reputation, and the alumni network is fairly irrelevant.

If you want to do something like get a communications degree and then work in marketing, however, the alumni network is probably the most valuable consideration (especially in the region you intend to live/work), all other things being equal. Of course low student debt load also should be a strong consideration for these majors, but I would personally still choose a school with a substantially higher pedigree over a worse school that offered scholarships (let's say at least two full "tiers" apart in their reputations. Also assuming the better school had a stronger alumni community). I interact with a large number of executives in a variety of industries for my work and it has become extremely obvious to me just how valuable a baked-in network can be for a young grad.


Hmm. But you will not always be a young grad. My own full ride was at a state school with no real reputation in my field, and especially for a bachelors degree, it has never mattered. Of course, the school where I got my PhD has a much stronger reputation, and that's what matters. But I didn't have trouble getting into PhD programs, and someone going straight into business or industry will only use that network for the first job; after that,they should be building their own network. I don't think the advantage is worth the cost. But then I'm fairly nontraditional myself, so YMMV. But I finished a masters degree with no debt at all, and could have done the same with the PhD if I hadn't been dumb about money at the time.
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: Lagom on July 02, 2016, 10:53:23 PM

 I went to the one that gave me a full ride.


I applied to a number of aspirational schools (based on reputation) and a safety school near home. I got in everywhere, but the safety school was the full ride, so there I went.

This, and the advice about program quality for technical/science majors (which I was). I have a lot of useful data for that side of things, but embarrassingly little for the liberal arts side of things, so I hope we have a few more of those folks chime in :)

I was a liberal arts major and have a B.A. and M.A. I briefly considered a PhD and know many who pursued that route. In my opinion, for those majors school pedigree >= strength of the alumni network (these often, though not always, go hand in hand) >>> reputation of the specific program (e.g. sociology). The only exception is if you want to pursue an advanced degree in your subject matter, especially at a PhD level (double so if you want to be a professor). In those cases, program reputation is almost as important as school reputation, and the alumni network is fairly irrelevant.

If you want to do something like get a communications degree and then work in marketing, however, the alumni network is probably the most valuable consideration (especially in the region you intend to live/work), all other things being equal. Of course low student debt load also should be a strong consideration for these majors, but I would personally still choose a school with a substantially higher pedigree over a worse school that offered scholarships (let's say at least two full "tiers" apart in their reputations. Also assuming the better school had a stronger alumni community). I interact with a large number of executives in a variety of industries for my work and it has become extremely obvious to me just how valuable a baked-in network can be for a young grad.


Hmm. But you will not always be a young grad. My own full ride was at a state school with no real reputation in my field, and especially for a bachelors degree, it has never mattered. Of course, the school where I got my PhD has a much stronger reputation, and that's what matters. But I didn't have trouble getting into PhD programs, and someone going straight into business or industry will only use that network for the first job; after that,they should be building their own network. I don't think the advantage is worth the cost. But then I'm fairly nontraditional myself, so YMMV. But I finished a masters degree with no debt at all, and could have done the same with the PhD if I hadn't been dumb about money at the time.

I think you're underestimating alumni networks, which is unsurprising given that you went the PhD route. I do agree you can get into strong PhD programs from no name undergrad schools, but it's more difficult. Still, if you think you can ace all of your classes and make good choices about seeking internships or undergraduate research opportunities, yes it's probably better to go where you get more scholarships.

As for alumni networks, plenty of people use them throughout their careers to very great success, especially the premier ones like USC, Stanford, Notre Dame, etc. I know lots of people don't bother to engage much with their alumni communities after graduation, but I am 100% sure that staying connected is often quite valuable, especially if you went to a school like one of the above. I work in this world every day so it's pretty clear to me, but as a formerly disinterested alum myself, I am not at all surprised to hear your take.

Also, if we think in terms of setting yourself up for FIRE, maximizing your ability to hit the ground running after you graduate is pretty important, so even if you only do get your first job through the alumni network, if it's a better job than you would have gotten otherwise, you already have a huge leg up.
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: Noodle on July 02, 2016, 11:33:58 PM
This was (eep) 25 years ago so I don't know how helpful it will be but...

My parents and I agreed on the number of schools I would apply for (around five), not counting our state school (which was a safe bet--I just had to do the paperwork), and somehow agreed that I would stick to the East Coast due to travel costs (I don't remember how we decided that). It was pretty clear from what I was good at during high school and had always enjoyed that I was going to be best off in a really challenging liberal arts program, and I personally wasn't interested in living in a big city, so that ruled out the schools in Boston, NYC etc. I also didn't want to go to a really large school, or an all-women's college, which ruled out a bunch more. I spent a lot of time paging through those big books and settled on two private colleges in my state, one private college a couple of states away (but near my grandparents), and one public college quite a distance away that I interviewed with thanks to a former professor of my dad's. We did college visits the summers before junior and senior year. I got in everywhere and honestly the final decision was based on the financial aid--even as an out of state student and having to travel, the public school was cheaper by a few thousand a year. My parents confessed later that even though it was a hassle arranging for all the travel, they had been concerned that going to a school with a lot of really wealthy kids would have been hard for me (not being to afford what the others could) so they were happy to have me at the state school.

My in-state schools weren't really an option, even though I had a full scholarship, because they were terrible--even the flagship university was nothing much.
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: MakeSmarterDecisions on July 03, 2016, 06:15:02 AM
Thanks again to everyone!  To the comments about the alumni network - those are really interesting since I became a teacher and that really wasn't in play at all.  I could swim and teach science and the school that hired me needed a swim coach and science teacher - pretty easy fit!

One thing I am looking at for the upcoming post is the differences in information now - my big catalogs of information vs. my kid's being absolutely bombarded with information about colleges. They get hundreds of emails and they can get on every FB, Twitter, Instagram - etc.... of every school, along with all of the virtual tours and it seems to make it hard for them to really sort through.  So many variables to choose from and consider.

I sorted through a couple of big books to find a college I would be satisfied with (I chose based on swim teams, major, size, cost).  The information overload they face (along with the marketing schemes) really seems to get them thinking (and worrying) about being at the "best" school.  There are a lot of "best" schools in my opinion.
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: Dusty Dog Ranch on July 03, 2016, 09:53:41 AM
Dialing the way-back machine to 1988...I had a list of a few schools in my head, and then the college counselor added a few more (including one I hadn't heard of before and wound up choosing). I don't remember looking at college catalogs, I mostly knew of the schools by word of mouth or because they were nearby, or because they had a good lacrosse team.

Given that I went to a school of 120 girls, 7-12th grade, I wasn't interested in a large public university, so all the schools on my list were on the smaller side. My focus was zoology/biological science programs with lots of opportunities to do field work, since at a lot of big schools you don't get to do that much until you are a grad student.

Ultimately I made the choice with my gut- during the school visit, I just fell in love with the campus, and felt a really good vibe there- it probably helped that it was a lovely New England spring day, with students out playing music on their balconies, and frisbee and hacky sack on the lawns! I had a fantastic experience, met my husband there, and started an environmental education program as a sophomore that is still going these many years later (another bonus of a small college- have a good idea and they might just let you run with it).

I haven't used the alumni network much, and I don't know if that would have made much a difference for me as a high schooler choosing a college. Networking has never been my strong suit though, so YMMV

For better or (mostly) worse, my parents never discussed financials with me until they absolutely had to, so partway through I had to start doing work/study, and then when I graduated my mom was like, oh, and here is the student loan that you have to pay off, which I didn't even know they had taken out. Luckily it was only 10K. I might not have chosen such an expensive private liberal arts school if I had been involved in the financial conversation, but I am so very happy that I had the opportunity to get my undergrad education where I did.
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: seattlecyclone on July 03, 2016, 10:01:34 AM
I was interested in engineering schools. I applied to a few nationwide top schools, got waitlisted (eventually rejected) at them all. I also applied to a few good state schools in neighboring states. I was accepted at all of those. I chose the one that gave me the most financial aid, despite it being rated a bit lower than the others. No regrets about that decision whatsoever. I then went and did my master's degree at one of the schools that I turned down for undergrad.
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: GizmoTX on July 03, 2016, 11:29:46 AM
Back in the mid-60's, my parents had 5 children & nothing saved for college, & student loans didn't exist. Fortunately I was awarded a tuition scholarship at any in-state university via my ACT score. I only applied to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign -- I couldn't decide on a major & wanted the flagship university to explore options. Back then, room & board was about $500/semester; my parents paid 1 semester for 3 years & I worked to pay everything else. By my senior year, I was married, moved away, & finished my degree at UT Austin, but got it from UIUC.

For DS' search (HS graduation in 2012), he decided he wanted something in STEM & to stay in Texas, so his initial places to check included Rice, UT Austin, TX A&M, SMU, UT Dallas, & Texas Tech. He applied Early Action to TAMU (big state engineering school 3 hours away), SMU (medium private engineering school 45 minutes away), & UT Dallas (state engineering safety school 15 minutes away) & was accepted to all 3. SMU offered 2 very nice scholarships which brought it into parity with the other 2 schools, & its small class sizes, courses in engineering starting the first semester, easy access to professors, & campus vibe made it his choice. He's been very happy there & was able to graduate last May in 4 years with 2 BS degrees, Electrical Engineering & Mathematics, including 3 graduate level EE courses that will count towards a 1 year Masters EE degree this fall & spring.
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: Lagom on July 03, 2016, 11:46:23 AM
Anyone who has not actively participated in one is not likely to realize the value of alumni networks, which is why I thought it was important to bring up. I can offer tons of info on that front, but suffice it to say for now that they are extremely valuable and quite underrated by those who have not taken advantage of them (much to the benefit of those who do).

I was not an active alum of my alma mater for over 10 years, so I can understand that perspective, but for what it's worth, strength of the alumni program is going to be one of my top criteria when advising my own children on their college choices.
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: MakeSmarterDecisions on July 03, 2016, 08:53:15 PM
Thanks so much everyone!  This gave me a lot of the information I was looking for. 
Title: How did you choose a college?
Post by: pbkmaine on July 03, 2016, 09:13:28 PM
Anyone who has not actively participated one is not likely to realize the value of alumni networks, which is why I thought it was important to bring up. I can offer tons of info on that front, but suffice it to say for now that they are extremely valuable and quite underrated by those who have not taken advantage of them (much to the benefit of those who do).

I was not an active alum of my alma mater for over 10 years, so I can understand that perspective, but for what it's worth, strength of the alumni program is going to be one of my top criteria when advising my own children on their college choices.

This has been true for me. The Chairman of the Board at a very important client basically adopted me when he found out I was also an alum. He has been an important reference many times. I also still keep in touch with my sorority sisters 38 years after graduation. My network linked into their networks mean that there are many problems I can solve with a text message.
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: FINate on July 03, 2016, 09:23:20 PM
Majored in Computer Science in the late 90's at a decent local state school. I did this because it allowed me to live at home while attending, cutting my expenses over 4 years by $40-50k. Undergraduate CS programs are *very* similar from school to school, and what you get out is largely a function of the effort put into it. Studied hard and never had difficulty finding great jobs. For those going into STEM I think you're better off saving money on undergrad, then spending on a name brand school for an advanced degree.
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: Murse on July 03, 2016, 10:16:57 PM
1) it was the local CC
2) I didn't have the money or option to go elsewhere.

My parents told me I would not be able to get any kind of financial aid because of their income. Who knows if that's true but I'm glad I took the route I did. The local CC was my on choice.
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: Big Boots Buddha on July 03, 2016, 11:58:40 PM
I looked at which state had the cheapest state universities.

Montana was 2,000 dollars per year for tuition for in-state students - this was 15 years ago or so.

I moved to Montana and got a job for a year, paid taxes, filed for in-state status. Went to school for nothing. I was paid to go actually.
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: Sailor Sam on July 04, 2016, 12:53:08 AM
I got a 1600 on my PSAT's, and repeated it on my SAT. Schools from everywhere sent me an astounding amount of propaganda. I chose the one that gave me close to a full ride, only accepted women, and had a reputation for being full of lesbians.

What can I say? I grew up in a small town in eastern WA, and the miracle of girl-girl sex was long denied me. At let me tell you, my plan worked like a charm. One might even say a fucking charm.
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: ShoulderThingThatGoesUp on July 04, 2016, 04:54:02 AM
Third Cornell person in this thread (and I know there's more on the forum).

I wanted an engineering school with a strong reputation that also had a gender ratio in my favor. I got the degree, it got me a good job, and I've been married for six years to a woman I met freshman year. So, it worked out like I hoped.
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: MakeSmarterDecisions on July 04, 2016, 07:24:28 AM
Awesome posts everyone!  The relationship piece is interesting too!
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: SilveradoBojangles on July 04, 2016, 12:34:12 PM
I went to the best school I got into, which also happened to be in an awesome city that was still in state but a good ways away from my parents. Plus 2 good friends were also going there (but I didn't know that until after I decided, as we all decided to keep it a secret so as not to influence each other). Note that it was not the school which gave me the most money, which might have been a smarter move in some ways. But that school had a party rep, and I was looking for something more serious. It appears to have worked out, and I only had a about 5-7K of debt when I graduated.
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: mm1970 on July 04, 2016, 03:13:17 PM
I always wanted to go to Cornell. I liked the diversity of the student body and the coursework as well as the mix of private and land-grant colleges. Not to mention the fabulous beauty of the place. My parents wanted me at an Ivy. The stars aligned. I had a terrific experience and got both my AB and MBA there.
My husband attended Cornell. 

I think back then, he only applied to 3 schools.  Cornell, wherever his father went (just to make his dad happy - they didn't have engineering), and the local university.  He got into Cornell.  His parents said "um, we cannot afford this really), so he took the offered ROTC scholarship.

I went to CMU.  Summer before senior year in HS, I was awarded a spot in the PA Governor's school for the sciences, which was at CMU.  I really loved the campus.  I needed to be near-ish home (within a couple hours drive) and in state (for financial aid).  I couldn't afford more than 2 applications, so CMU and Penn State it was.  Got into CMU and went.  (Soph year took a ROTC scholarship).  It was the highest ranking engineering school in the state (ranked #8 or #9 in the country at the time).

My niece is just graduating and is going to go to a SUNY.  I'm not sure how many schools she got into, but she's an honor student.  She plays soccer.  She was down to 2 choices: a private college with a soccer coach who really wanted her, and a $37k/year scholarship.  The SUNY school, with a brand knew soccer coach who said "maybe" (declined to watch her play, while the previous coach wanted her to play).  The SUNY school gave her a full academic honors scholarship.  Both places would require she finance room + board.  The private school total tuition cost would be an additional $25k per year on top of the $37k aid.  She made the big girl $100k decision to take the SUNY scholarship.
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: MakeSmarterDecisions on July 04, 2016, 03:53:32 PM
That's a great story!  My daughter is at a SUNY too and loves it!  She is finishing this year (in 3 years) which really helps financially and we are looking at grad schools now too.  We are looking for my son too as he'll be a senior in high school.  We get the "double" choosing of colleges this year...
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: yourusernamehere on July 04, 2016, 05:54:47 PM
I honestly didn't have much of a plan, and my mom insisted that I would go to college with no thought as to WHY or WHAT TO STUDY. I wanted to go to American University, and I got in but missed the financial aid deadline (actually this happened repeatedly as my mom has some kind of deep-seated issue with authority and that includes any and all paperwork deadlines). Luckily I decided to go a local university (SUNY Buffalo) and today I could easily pay off my minimal remaining loans, but they are so damn cheap. My advice to a younger self would be to 1) do exactly what you accidentally did because shit is great right now, or failing that 2) take at least a year off and consider what to accomplish with a college education, or possibly without one. Understand loans. Do not vacillate between art history, psychology, Italian, and philosophy of law. Pick something useful and interesting. Don't be afraid of math. (Shockingly I graduated early, with honors.)

I don't know that this is helpful. :-) good luck on your project!
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: GuitarStv on July 04, 2016, 06:30:17 PM
I applied and was accepted to three universities.  One had a decent engineering program and a great campus in a smallish town, one had a campus spread out all over the place in the middle of a busy very urban area, and the third was incredibly depressing - filled with sad looking foreign students but had the best engineering program.  I went with the first one, and it was an awesome choice for me.
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: v8rx7guy on July 04, 2016, 07:28:10 PM
Honestly... family tradition.
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: mac91red on July 04, 2016, 07:41:58 PM
Applied in state and out just to see what my options were.  Had  2 schools within driving distance of my parents home which was the deciding factor.  Those first two years living at home gave me the chance to save up and have 2 years of the "college experience."  Made paying down the student loans after easier as well.
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: MakeSmarterDecisions on July 04, 2016, 09:10:12 PM
Wow - SUNY Buffalo is getting close to my "home front" just down Rt. 78 to the "port" city with all the locks... Again - great stuff!  I appreciate the help and sharing!
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: MandyM on July 05, 2016, 07:20:33 AM
I grew up very close to the University of Michigan, so that on my list of potential schools, but I wasn't sure I wanted to be within an hour of home. But at the time your odds of acceptance at UM were better if you applied early, so I had my application turned in as soon as possible. I then realized that college applications were both expensive and lengthy, so I promptly procrastinated on the others. I got my acceptance letter to UM really early and decided that it was my first choice (funny how that works). So I didn't bother with any other applications.

[completely non-backed up statistic ahead] I heard once that something like 90% of students finishing their freshmen year feel like they chose the right school for them. Which basically says that there are few wrong answers from a student satisfaction stand point. I realize that there are plenty of other reasons to choose one school over another (e.g. alumni network), but a lot of the other priorities could probably be ignored and it wouldn't change the outcome.
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: esq on July 05, 2016, 07:38:44 AM
Another SUNYan here.  Started out at New Paltz, realized what a party school it was and didn't want my diploma to say New Paltz, transferred to Stony Brook.  Always knew I would go to a state school.

Son is lucky we have a great Uni for physics right here, and daughter, with her grades, work ethic and test scores, will be able to do whatever she wants once she graduates hs in 2 yrs.   (She wants out of Texas, lol.)
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: Gondolin on July 05, 2016, 09:03:03 AM
Quote
Do schools still do that?

Yes. As a freshman <10 years ago I hosted a few overnight visitors so Cornell, at least, still does.
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: monstermonster on July 05, 2016, 09:52:13 AM
This is a bit wordy. Sorry.

Age 16: Prestige and Random Teenage Whims
The first time I applied to college, as a 16 year old (early graduation), I applied to MIT (because my dad went there and I liked building robots), Harvard (because they have a co-op program with MIT, next best thing was my thought), two northeastern liberal arts colleges (no good reason at all, my best friend was applying, never visited either), and my state university located in Hometown (safety).

Got in to only Harvard and state university. Went to Harvard because of name brand and incredible financial aid/scholarship but was incredibly unhappy there as a 16 year old and mostly just smoked a lot of pot and slept with every queer woman on campus in between freshman classes, moved back to hometown after one semester, went straight home, worked retail and took part-time classes at the state university in hometown.


Age 21: Money and Flexibility
Reset after 5 years (21 years old) and I had moved halfway across the country, toured with bands, lived in a few trees, founded a nonprofit, trained as a vegetarian chef, been a stripper, and done two terms in Americorps (back then they gave you $4,750 of scholarship money for each term you served). I realized it was time to get my act together, so I took classes at community college to prove I was still a capable student.

Then I applied to schools based on their ability to shape my own curriculum, alumni network, community service opportunities, ability to do original research, willingness to work with non-traditional students, and their student culture.

I ended up applying to Marlboro (Vermont) and Evergreen State (WA). Got into both. While Marlboro had a sticker price that was ~45K higher than evergreen, it turned out that after scholarships, both cost about the same.  Decided on Marlboro.

Age 23: Location, Academic Rigor, and Financial Aid
After 1.5 years of deferring starting Marlboro every semester, admitted to self I was not moving to Vermont, applied to two local liberal arts colleges (Lewis & Clark and Reed) and went to Reed for the academic rigor.

Don't regret Reed for a second. I got full financial aid because I was a poor adult (~$11,000 income) didn't have to take out any loans, got my ass kicked academically and emerged out the other side smarter, and have gotten nearly all my jobs since graduating through the phenomenal alumni network. My only regret is they weren't very good at handling non-traditional students and the campus isn't set up for commuters or having a life outside school.
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: acroy on July 05, 2016, 10:24:05 AM
- proximity to home, Houston at the time
- well rated engineering program (at least top 25)
- success and attitudes of the alumni

This eliminated Rice, Baylor, Sam Houston State, etc

Texas Aggie here. I networked extensively before going to college and found the Aggies to be a great group of folks, friendly, excited when they learned I was a potential Aggie. Whoop!

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.
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: sis on July 05, 2016, 10:36:37 AM
I always did well in school because I grew up near the poverty line and knew that I'd have to get a full scholarship to attend college (or take out a boatload of loans).

I qualified to go to Rutgers for free through their merit scholarship program.  My AP Chem teacher recommended that I apply to Princeton (lol) which I thought I had no chance of getting into.  I got into Princeton and it was almost free ($1600 for the year for room/board/tuition) because of financial aid (see: growing up poor).  Anyway, I decided that Princeton for $1600 a year was probably worth it compared to Rutgers for free.  So that was that.  I paid for it with my earnings from my summer job.

I only actually applied to Princeton (since I applied early), if I'd been rejected I would have applied to Rutgers and possibly MIT (I had a friend who went there and told me their financial aid was good).  I was a STEM person so all three had good science/engineering/math major options.
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: RonMcCord on July 05, 2016, 10:45:24 AM
That meant I was going to the smaller state school by default. The quality of my education was great, IMO.  But I can't shake the feeling that I settled with the overall choice. OSU isn't an Ivy, but I think the stronger alumni network, living further away from home, and the high number of students would have been good for me. The school I went to didn't push me out of my comfort zone enough.

It all worked out though I guess. I moved after graduation and my career has been going great. I just wish I'd gotten more out of those 4 years. That's more on me though than my school. I wish I'd studied harder, made more friends, taken risks, etc.

Went to a small state school (in my case didn't get a choice in the matter. Folks wouldn't even let me apply anywhere that involved a high tuition or moving) and feel the same way.  Except for the last part.  That's still up in the air.
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: monstermonster on July 05, 2016, 10:45:49 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.
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: Jack on July 05, 2016, 10:50:49 AM
I'm from Georgia and wanted to be an engineer. Georgia Tech is the only engineering research university in the state, and also happens to be in the top 10 nationally, so it was a no-brainer.

(I did apply to MIT as my "reach" school, but didn't get accepted. If I had been, I have no idea if I would have actually decided to go there or not.)
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: monstermonster on July 05, 2016, 10:56:17 AM
I got a 1600 on my PSAT's, and repeated it on my SAT. Schools from everywhere sent me an astounding amount of propaganda. I chose the one that gave me close to a full ride, only accepted women, and had a reputation for being full of lesbians.
The number of people I know who chose a college that fits that description due to that reputation is hilarious. I think it might be a continuous loop of reputation>applicant pool skewed>reality>reputation.

I have no idea why this didn't occur to teenage me. I would've been in heaven.
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: elaine amj on July 05, 2016, 10:59:49 AM
I am from Asia so had to pick a university from afar after I settled on going to Canada for school (a rep had visited us high school kids and spent time talking to us about studying in Canada. I loved that he was not pushy at all about his school, but talked about the country in general). I talked to some local advisors - one who had loved her time in Newfoundland but the cold was a no-go for me LOL! I went home with a book. I also researched each university's website. I immediately dismissed the big-name universities because I felt they were too expensive even though my parents were going to pay and had given me no idea of any limits.

I then emailed about a dozen universities that offered the program I wanted. I think 3 replied (thinking back, it was rather naive as it was just their basic info accounts) but one did not offer the co-op program to international students (they did eventually). It ended up being between the University of Victoria and my small blue collar school. However, I was a little late to be applying and UVic said they could only accept me for the following January semester. This was a dealbreaker for me. Plus, I liked the more relaxed feel of my school - they agreed to waive requirements for English as a Second Language tests and said I would have no problems being accepted, all based on my strong grades. I loved not having to waste money submitting multiple applications and writing unnecessary tests. AND it ended up being the school that rep was from. His non-pushy techniques sold his school after all!

I have zero regrets - even though nobody here can believe I chose to come to this school. I don't have a high flying job nor do we live in a fancy big city - but will see FIRE by the time I am 40 after 6 years of being a SAHM followed by a short middle management career. My school had no reputation - but the jobs I have been in didn't care at all. I don't stay in contact with my alumni network at all and while I'm sure they give an extra boost, it honestly hasn't bothered me whatsoever. The campus scene was ok - but nothing spectacular. Even though it is a small school, I easily found a few small groups I cared about and spent the rest of my college time with them. Couldn't care less how many (or few) partiers there were. I hope my kids end up choosing to go to our local school.

As for academic rigor, I had already come to realize (and accept) that first year college in any North American school would be just a rehash of stuff I'd already learned in high school (after spending three years studying accounting, I was back to learning about debits and credits in college *sigh*). It annoyed me as I was eager for a challenge (yes, I am a geek lol), but it did make my first year super easy and I got a couple of impressive-sounding awards to add to my resume (now this DID help!). Thankfully, by my second year I got to sink my teeth into some meatier courses.

In a nutshell, what was important to me was:
1. Price
2. Offered the program I wanted
3. Communicated with me
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: dcheesi on July 05, 2016, 11:11:50 AM
Early-'90s timeframe here:

1) Read the college catalogs over and over, dreaming of some big school out of state
2) Realized my parents weren't made of money, started focusing on in-state schools
3) Toured several, including the two top public universities. Applied to most of them.
4) After being accepted everywhere, I picked one top school over the other, for mostly personal reasons:
    -- close enough to home that I could have commuted if money got tight (thankfully never needed to)
    -- more well-rounded school, so if my choice of major didn't work out, I would have alternatives that were still good programs
    -- my home team growing up (certainly not the deciding factor, but it probably biased me emotionally at least)
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: ShoulderThingThatGoesUp on July 05, 2016, 11:19:25 AM
Quote
Do schools still do that?

Yes. As a freshman <10 years ago I hosted a few overnight visitors so Cornell, at least, still does.

I interview kids who have applied to Cornell locally, so I can confirm that Cornell Days still exists, with dorm stays, to this day.
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: Basenji 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.
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: MakeSmarterDecisions 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!
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: ShoulderThingThatGoesUp 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.
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: gillstone 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!
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: mm1970 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.
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: catccc 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.)

Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: Allison 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....
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: Helvegen 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.
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: pbkmaine 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.
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: FINate 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 :)

(http://conferenceservices.ucsc.edu/images/slideshow/east-field-at-UCSantaCruz.jpg)
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: acroy 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.
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: monstermonster 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 (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/01/education/gaming-the-college-rankings.html) that schools can manipulate easily (https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2009/06/03/rankings). But I also went to a college that refused to participate in the rankings.
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: Yankuba on July 07, 2016, 03:13:50 PM
c2f
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: jjcamembert 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.
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: Lanthiriel 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.
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: ysette9 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.
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: mozar on July 07, 2016, 05:27:30 PM
I lived in

Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: MakeSmarterDecisions 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!)
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: FINate 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:

(http://cdn.c.photoshelter.com/img-get/I00001MrnxVPAzHg/s/750/750/UCSC-edit-for-Plenty-7-07-Frank-Balthis-064.jpg)

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!

Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: PFHC 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
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: MakeSmarterDecisions 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! 
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: mm1970 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.
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: nobody123 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.

Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: MakeSmarterDecisions 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!
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: trashmanz on July 08, 2016, 03:37:29 PM
After I toured the various campuses I went with the one that felt right to me.
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: Angel_fire 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. 
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: MakeSmarterDecisions on July 08, 2016, 08:06:57 PM
Can I ask in what field?
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: Sailor Sam 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.
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: PFHC 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?
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: Sailor Sam 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 ;)
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: Pigeon 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.
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: MakeSmarterDecisions 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!
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: FIREby35 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.
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: MakeSmarterDecisions 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!
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: Lagom 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.
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: FIREby35 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 (http://grad-schools.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-graduate-schools/top-law-schools/law-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 (http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/cypress/nationaljurist-bts2015/#/26).

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. (https://www.google.com/search?site=&source=hp&q=Classic+first+year+law+cases&oq=Classic+first+year+law+cases&gs_l=hp.3...1958.5585.0.5718.29.23.0.3.3.0.243.2065.14j4j2.20.0....0...1c.1.64.hp..6.20.1643.0.NNQyAWNidtU)  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. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sz8VJpcDim4&#38;#10;https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sz8VJpcDim4&#38;#10;https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sz8VJpcDim4)

_________________________________________________

* 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.
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: Lagom 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... ;)

Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: FIREby35 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 :)

Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: Lagom 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.
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: Clean Shaven 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.

Sent from my Nexus 5X using Tapatalk

Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: Typhoid Mary 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.
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: FINate 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.
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: MakeSmarterDecisions 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...
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: Davids 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.
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: Lagom 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.
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: FINate 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.
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: woopwoop 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:

(http://cdn.c.photoshelter.com/img-get/I00001MrnxVPAzHg/s/750/750/UCSC-edit-for-Plenty-7-07-Frank-Balthis-064.jpg)

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 :)
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: ender 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.
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: MakeSmarterDecisions 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?
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: okonumiyaki 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...? 

Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: pbkmaine on July 17, 2016, 07:12:49 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...?

LOL. Please tell me that you regularly refer to Oxford as a "third best school".
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: okonumiyaki on July 17, 2016, 07:19:58 AM

LOL. Please tell me that you regularly refer to Oxford as a "third best school".

Heh - well, for engineering Cambridge & Imperial are better... :) 
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: MakeSmarterDecisions on July 17, 2016, 07:44:43 AM
Sure - I'd be sold on the deer park too :)
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: SoccerLounge on July 17, 2016, 08:41:47 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...?

LOL. Please tell me that you regularly refer to Oxford as a "third best school".

Imperial College is kind of like a cross between an Ivy and MIT/Caltech. It's the place a lot of the really smart nerdy kids go to do engineering, science etc. If I were over there and wanting to get myself an engineering degree, it'd be higher on my list than Oxford. Just saying. ;)
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: chasesfish on July 17, 2016, 08:49:40 AM
Only 1 said "yes" to me
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: DCKatie09 on July 17, 2016, 10:46:46 AM
This is such a fun thing to think back on (and my decision-making process was very different for college vs. grad school vs. law school (yeah yeah, I took a long time to get through school). My college process started with me thinking that I wanted to study neuroscience and thinking about small liberal arts schools - but then I visited some and realized they were way too small for my taste. I grew up in a midwestern college town with a state school of about 30,000 students, and that definitely formed my sense of what a college should feel like. Had great test scores, lower-middle class parents, and applied somewhat broadly to larger prestigious but not necessarily Ivy schools (Wash U, Johns Hopkins, Northwestern, etc.). I had a couple state schools in the mix as safeties, but was pretty determined to get out of my home state. Then in March, I got a packet from University of Kansas saying basically "Hey, it's not too late to come here for free, national merit finalist!" - so I went down for a campus visit focused on the honors college and scholarship halls (amazing sub-communities at a big school) and really loved it. Ended up needing to decide between Northwestern and KU, and my folks steered my prestige-conflicted self towards the free option. Great decision.

Post-grad choices in a nutshell: grad school (psych PhD) - went to the best school I got into for my area of focus (psycholinguistics). Handily, this was also the program that I liked best, and in a town that I felt very comfortable in. 2 years later realizing that I'm not cut out for academia, I applied to joint degree programs in law and public policy, and went to the best school I got into (slightly complicated by differing rankings for law vs. policy, but the law rankings won out). Again, this also luckily lined up with the school I liked best. No regrets (4 years left to go on student loans...).
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: MakeSmarterDecisions on July 17, 2016, 11:15:49 AM
That's awesome! I was just on-line looking at merit aid for my son (and his SAT/ACT, grades, etc.) and National Merit Finalists look like they have great options!  Free is awesome!  Really scattered merit aid for my son - SAT's just under 1400 and ACT 31. He may re-take to see if he can bump them up a bit. He wants to go out of state and there are some schools that are cheaper than in-state we are finding (even with travel).  Anyone know much about WVU? He's like the feel of Coastal Carolina - but that is far away.... loved UVM - but costs there are so high - makes it hard to consider.
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: EscapeVelocity2020 on July 17, 2016, 03:29:27 PM
Wanted to go out of state (independence), good engineering school reputation, affordable.
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: Rural on July 18, 2016, 06:08:16 AM
That's awesome! I was just on-line looking at merit aid for my son (and his SAT/ACT, grades, etc.) and National Merit Finalists look like they have great options!  Free is awesome!  Really scattered merit aid for my son - SAT's just under 1400 and ACT 31. He may re-take to see if he can bump them up a bit. He wants to go out of state and there are some schools that are cheaper than in-state we are finding (even with travel).  Anyone know much about WVU? He's like the feel of Coastal Carolina - but that is far away.... loved UVM - but costs there are so high - makes it hard to consider.


Yeah, everyone should look at national merit if it's an option. It's a much better deal now than it used to be. (Was a National Merit scholar, and that's not how I got the full ride back in the day.) Now being a finalist will get you through at a lot of schools, enough to have options.


Also, with that National Merit finalist, have a look at Harvard, Yale, Princeton if you don't have a high income. These days the big Ivies have a policy where low income students who meet the admission standards don't pay, and they define low income as under 60k or so, plus a sliding scale as incomes increase.
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: Sailor Sam on July 18, 2016, 10:37:02 AM
That's awesome! I was just on-line looking at merit aid for my son (and his SAT/ACT, grades, etc.) and National Merit Finalists look like they have great options!  Free is awesome!  Really scattered merit aid for my son - SAT's just under 1400 and ACT 31. He may re-take to see if he can bump them up a bit. He wants to go out of state and there are some schools that are cheaper than in-state we are finding (even with travel).  Anyone know much about WVU? He's like the feel of Coastal Carolina - but that is far away.... loved UVM - but costs there are so high - makes it hard to consider.


Yeah, everyone should look at national merit if it's an option. It's a much better deal now than it used to be. (Was a National Merit scholar, and that's not how I got the full ride back in the day.) Now being a finalist will get you through at a lot of schools, enough to have options.


Also, with that National Merit finalist, have a look at Harvard, Yale, Princeton if you don't have a high income. These days the big Ivies have a policy where low income students who meet the admission standards don't pay, and they define low income as under 60k or so, plus a sliding scale as incomes increase.

My understanding is that entry into the National Merit Competition is a one-shot deal, judged on the PSAT scores. Has this changed, or am I just wrong? Internet seemed to back me up, based on my 2 minutes of research. On the other hand, only 2 minutes of research.
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: MakeSmarterDecisions on July 18, 2016, 10:53:46 AM
That's what I know about National Merit/PSAT testing too.  My son is a senior now - did well, but not that well...  It's amazing the differences we are finding with colleges offering merit aid. He is close to 1400 on SAT's and will got $10K+ at some schools and zero at others.  It brings some out of state colleges lower than our in-state that doesn't offer any merit aid.
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: Rural on July 18, 2016, 12:57:47 PM
That's awesome! I was just on-line looking at merit aid for my son (and his SAT/ACT, grades, etc.) and National Merit Finalists look like they have great options!  Free is awesome!  Really scattered merit aid for my son - SAT's just under 1400 and ACT 31. He may re-take to see if he can bump them up a bit. He wants to go out of state and there are some schools that are cheaper than in-state we are finding (even with travel).  Anyone know much about WVU? He's like the feel of Coastal Carolina - but that is far away.... loved UVM - but costs there are so high - makes it hard to consider.


Yeah, everyone should look at national merit if it's an option. It's a much better deal now than it used to be. (Was a National Merit scholar, and that's not how I got the full ride back in the day.) Now being a finalist will get you through at a lot of schools, enough to have options.


Also, with that National Merit finalist, have a look at Harvard, Yale, Princeton if you don't have a high income. These days the big Ivies have a policy where low income students who meet the admission standards don't pay, and they define low income as under 60k or so, plus a sliding scale as incomes increase.

My understanding is that entry into the National Merit Competition is a one-shot deal, judged on the PSAT scores. Has this changed, or am I just wrong? Internet seemed to back me up, based on my 2 minutes of research. On the other hand, only 2 minutes of research.


Yes, that's how it worked many years ago, too. I just meant look into what being a scholar or finalist would get your child if he or she is one; it's a lot more now than it was when I was in school.
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: ender on July 18, 2016, 07:14:14 PM
That's what I know about National Merit/PSAT testing too.  My son is a senior now - did well, but not that well...  It's amazing the differences we are finding with colleges offering merit aid. He is close to 1400 on SAT's and will got $10K+ at some schools and zero at others.  It brings some out of state colleges lower than our in-state that doesn't offer any merit aid.


Man I was so annoyed when I learned that the PSAT was actually an important test.

I got "commended" or whatever their "you were good but not good enough" was. But when I took it I had no idea it was a $50k-$100k test!
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: MakeSmarterDecisions on July 18, 2016, 07:57:48 PM
No kidding ender!  I think it could come out to be even closer to $200K at many schools (or more - how scary is that!!!)  I saw full tuition, room and board, books and a STIPEND for travel, conferences - etc. at a few schools...  Juniors hardly understand what an AP course is let alone a full ride...
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: monstermonster on July 18, 2016, 08:24:03 PM
No kidding ender!  I think it could come out to be even closer to $200K at many schools (or more - how scary is that!!!)  I saw full tuition, room and board, books and a STIPEND for travel, conferences - etc. at a few schools...  Juniors hardly understand what an AP course is let alone a full ride...
I prepped for the PSAT for so long, did really well on it the year before it counted (they let you take a practice year) and then I was in the hospital the day of the test when it counted- and there's no make up tests! Still a bit sad about that.
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: FINate on July 19, 2016, 09:39:38 AM
My PSAT score was terrible. Neither of my parents went to university and I had no idea what the test was, other than someone said I should take it. If I recall correctly (that was 20 years ago) I signed up the week before. Never took the SAT, but didn't seem to matter for me after three degrees and ER.
Title: Re: How did you choose a college?
Post by: mm1970 on July 19, 2016, 10:13:42 AM
That's what I know about National Merit/PSAT testing too.  My son is a senior now - did well, but not that well...  It's amazing the differences we are finding with colleges offering merit aid. He is close to 1400 on SAT's and will got $10K+ at some schools and zero at others.  It brings some out of state colleges lower than our in-state that doesn't offer any merit aid.


Man I was so annoyed when I learned that the PSAT was actually an important test.

I got "commended" or whatever their "you were good but not good enough" was. But when I took it I had no idea it was a $50k-$100k test!
Yep, same here.  I mean, I did okay (780 on the math, duh), but my verbals were terrible.  I brought them up for the SAT, but really didn't "get" how important it was at all.

So, ROTC was my ticket really.