Author Topic: How did you choose a college?  (Read 19189 times)

MakeSmarterDecisions

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How did you choose a college?
« 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.

ltt

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Re: How did you choose a college?
« Reply #1 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.

 

Lagom

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Re: How did you choose a college?
« Reply #2 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. 

pbkmaine

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Re: How did you choose a college?
« Reply #3 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.

randymarsh

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Re: How did you choose a college?
« Reply #4 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.

MakeSmarterDecisions

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Re: How did you choose a college?
« Reply #5 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. 

Spork

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Re: How did you choose a college?
« Reply #6 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.

Gondolin

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Re: How did you choose a college?
« Reply #7 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

Rural

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Re: How did you choose a college?
« Reply #8 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.

SoccerLounge

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Re: How did you choose a college?
« Reply #9 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 :)

MakeSmarterDecisions

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Re: How did you choose a college?
« Reply #10 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!


Altons Bobs

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Re: How did you choose a college?
« Reply #11 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.

Lagom

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Re: How did you choose a college?
« Reply #12 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.

Rural

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Re: How did you choose a college?
« Reply #13 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.

Lagom

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Re: How did you choose a college?
« Reply #14 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.

Noodle

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Re: How did you choose a college?
« Reply #15 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.

MakeSmarterDecisions

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Re: How did you choose a college?
« Reply #16 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.

Dusty Dog Ranch

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Re: How did you choose a college?
« Reply #17 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.

seattlecyclone

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Re: How did you choose a college?
« Reply #18 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.

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Re: How did you choose a college?
« Reply #19 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.

Lagom

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Re: How did you choose a college?
« Reply #20 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.
« Last Edit: July 03, 2016, 09:23:44 PM by Lagom »

MakeSmarterDecisions

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Re: How did you choose a college?
« Reply #21 on: July 03, 2016, 08:53:15 PM »
Thanks so much everyone!  This gave me a lot of the information I was looking for. 

pbkmaine

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How did you choose a college?
« Reply #22 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.
« Last Edit: July 04, 2016, 07:45:41 AM by pbkmaine »

FINate

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Re: How did you choose a college?
« Reply #23 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.

Murse

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Re: How did you choose a college?
« Reply #24 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.

Big Boots Buddha

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Re: How did you choose a college?
« Reply #25 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.

Sailor Sam

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Re: How did you choose a college?
« Reply #26 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.

ShoulderThingThatGoesUp

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Re: How did you choose a college?
« Reply #27 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.

MakeSmarterDecisions

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Re: How did you choose a college?
« Reply #28 on: July 04, 2016, 07:24:28 AM »
Awesome posts everyone!  The relationship piece is interesting too!

SilveradoBojangles

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Re: How did you choose a college?
« Reply #29 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.

mm1970

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Re: How did you choose a college?
« Reply #30 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.

MakeSmarterDecisions

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Re: How did you choose a college?
« Reply #31 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...

yourusernamehere

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Re: How did you choose a college?
« Reply #32 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!

GuitarStv

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Re: How did you choose a college?
« Reply #33 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.

v8rx7guy

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Re: How did you choose a college?
« Reply #34 on: July 04, 2016, 07:28:10 PM »
Honestly... family tradition.

mac91red

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Re: How did you choose a college?
« Reply #35 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.

MakeSmarterDecisions

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Re: How did you choose a college?
« Reply #36 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!

MandyM

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Re: How did you choose a college?
« Reply #37 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.

esq

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Re: How did you choose a college?
« Reply #38 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.)

Gondolin

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Re: How did you choose a college?
« Reply #39 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.

monstermonster

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Re: How did you choose a college?
« Reply #40 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.
« Last Edit: July 05, 2016, 09:55:13 AM by monstermonster »

acroy

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Re: How did you choose a college?
« Reply #41 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.

sis

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Re: How did you choose a college?
« Reply #42 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.

RonMcCord

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Re: How did you choose a college?
« Reply #43 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.

monstermonster

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Re: How did you choose a college?
« Reply #44 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.

Jack

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Re: How did you choose a college?
« Reply #45 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.)

monstermonster

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Re: How did you choose a college?
« Reply #46 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.

elaine amj

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Re: How did you choose a college?
« Reply #47 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

dcheesi

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Re: How did you choose a college?
« Reply #48 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)

ShoulderThingThatGoesUp

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Re: How did you choose a college?
« Reply #49 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.