Preliminary College Questionnaire

By Tuesday I need to turn in a preliminary questionnaire to my school’s college counseling office and indicate some preferences. Is college/university size important to you? If so, rank preference of a) small college (3,000 or less, e.g. Pomona, Amherst, Trinity, Macalester, Kenyon), b) medium sized college (3-7,000, eg. Yale, Dartmouth, Stanford, Columbia, U of Chicago, Dartmouth, Tulane), or c) large university (6,000+, e.g. Northwestern, Cornell, U of Pennslyvania, USC, NYU, Boston U, any UC campus). Is geographic location important to you? Is the size of the surrounding college community important to you?

I really have no idea what my preferences are. I’m thinking I like being in a big city and want to be at least near a big city, but also like the idea of an enclosed college campus. Geographically, I’m game for anything other than the deep south I think. West coast, midwest, or east are all attractive for different reasons.

There’s plenty of time but over the next several weeks I’ll need to firm up my preferences around these topics and I’ll also get a sense as to which schools are “hard” “medium” or “easy” for me to get into. I am open to any and all feedback from anyone on anything college related. Once I have a better idea of schools I’m looking at, I will be requesting specific feedback!

3 Responses to Preliminary College Questionnaire

  1. Cathy Kunst says:

    Ben,
    As you ponder your college preferences, you might focus more on what you want the college to offer than where it is located geographically or how large it is. Does the school offer the variety of programs that interest you? Does the school have enough diversity of programs if your interests change? Do you want a school that predominantly focuses upon its graduate programs or would you prefer a school that centers its programs around its undergraduates with perhaps minimal graduate level opportunities? Do you like semesters? quarters? independent learning? one class at a time in 4 to 8 week cycles? If you are considering graduate school, do the programs at the college you are considering have a good success rate for getting students into graduate school?
    There are so many factors that I think are more important that geography & school size. Of course these do factor in somewhat. I went to college in Cleveland, OH and those -60 F winter wind chill days are not something that I would like to repeat ever. Although my choice for graduate school (Emory in Atlanta, GA) was predominantly because I found a mentor that I admired, the warm climate & beautiful suburban campus did indeed play roles in my decision.
    Best of luck to you.
    Cathy

  2. Travis says:

    Ben,

    the advice in the previous comment is good, but I think once you narrow it down to a handful of schools you need to visit them. there is an undescribable feeling you get when you step onto a campus and you just know whether you will fit in there. It has been studied that potential undergraduates make their decision based on gut feeling.

    In my college experience, as it wraps up, I would have gone further away. being from Boston, Philly wasn’t far enough. An interesting thing happened during my college years. During my freshman and spohomore years I loved Villanova for the tight knit community that it fostered. Junior year came along and I thought that it became too much like high school. The people were way too clicky and in everybody’s business. In the latter half of my college career I would have prefered a larger city school where I could be more annonymous.

    I think that the professors play a huge role in your experience. I can honestly say that I can call 3 or 4 of my former profs more friends than teachers. My girlfriend goes to Dartmouth College and she has the absolute opposite experience when it comes to profs. She says that it seems like they are more interested their research than their undergraduate students and they all sit in lectures of 150-250 people.

    I could write about this forever since I am giving my little sister advice since she is looking at schools right now as well.

    If you want to talk:
    AIM: tmac9282
    Skype: travismac

    Good luck!

  3. Seth Levine says:

    Hi Ben. Your post on colleges caught my eye – I recall making a similar choice when I was looking at schools (I grew up outside of Boston). Here’s one perspective – slanted completely by a great experience I had.

    I ended up at Macalester after visiting an applying to a number of schools across the country. I loved the idea of a smaller school (and Mac was definitely small – about 1800 students at the time); but that was in a bigger city (Minneapolis is pretty close by and easy to access by bus – I ended up working downtown one summer and having an internship downtown my senior year). It struck me as a pretty good balance (as opposed to small schools that were not in a city – Amherst, Grinnell, Dartmouth, etc.). The key thing for me was visiting a bunch of schools. Since I lived on the east coast I went to the usual suspects within driving distance (Williams, Amherst, Middleberry, Colby, etc.). I also visited some schools in the mid-west and took a look at some larger schools. There was no question after I got back from my college trips that 1) I wanted to go to a small school; 2) I wanted to be away from the east coast and 3) I didn’t want to be in the sticks. I suspect that you’ll have a similar reaction if you spend some time on different campuses (I had a number of friends that has similar experiences – but with different outcomes in terms of size and location that appealed to them).

    Good luck. Keep us posted on your blog. Let me know if you ever want the full “Macalester is a great place to go to school” pitch . . .

    seth

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