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Choosing Colleges: What Are You Looking For?
By Courtland Thomas, Grade 12

For six consecutive years, the University of Texas at Austin has had the most sales in manufacturing college paraphernalia, according to the Collegiate Licensing Company. What makes the burnt orange and black, the university’s official colors, so exciting?

It’s obvious the colors have an immense impact on the decision of which sweatshirt or foam finger a student buys, but do the colors have a greater influence on where we wish to go?

For us rising seniors and perhaps the overachieving juniors, we are now approaching a cautious time in our lives where we must sort through the piles of college mail, decide which schools appeal to us, and which ones we couldn’t be any happier to leave behind (namely, our high schools).

But that attraction to certain schools could lead us astray. Maybe we want to attend our parent’s alma mater, carrying on the legacy of the (insert your last name here) family. Or maybe the Ivy League dawns on us directly, for us hard workers with big aspirations have dreamed of attending a school with an even bigger reputation. However, keep in mind what you’re looking for.

You’re going to be spending four, more or less, years on this campus, near your educational instructors and peers—the least you can do is enjoy it. Here is a list that I’ve compiled of unconventional aspects to look out for while you search for your next home, in other words, college.

First: Location (I’ll be like everyone else and say that the most important is the academic quality—is the Psychology department superb? Are the British Literature professors extremely qualified? But, location is probably the second most important.)

It’s perhaps the most prime factor of your future home, college, and just like any potential home buyer, you must consider the benefits and consequences of moving across the United States or even out of the country.

My best advice for you is to visit the area you’re interested in applying for, and, realistically, this may seem improbable if you’re interested in so many schools across the nation. Therefore, this calls upon knowing what you like. If you love to feel the faux fur across the hood of your Hollister jacket for more than a majority of the year, any one of the northern states could be a potential home. But if you’ve never experienced any weather outside of the tantrum thunderstorms of Florida, it’s a bit wild to assume you’re capable of surviving below zero temperatures. Stick to what you know.

Second, school colors.

It sounds superficial, but examine your considered schools’ colors. I’ve turned away potential universities that didn’t have a great color combination, and I am glad that I do not have to look like a dysfunctional painting during the football games when I feel extra spirited. I am aware that in the rush of admissions, you’ll forget about the actual school and more about the admission requirements.

Conversely, this is just one aspect of the school that you can incorporate into your admissions process – for example, wear a shirt of the school’s colors to an interview, or brag how stylish you look in old gold to your tour guide. You show pride and interest in the school – and maybe they’ll see how attractive you are in columbia blue.

Third, but not the least important, is your choice of people.

Yes, college is the place where you form those long-lasting friendships. These will be the people you can call your roommates, floor-mates, “note-sharing buddies,” dorm buddies, anything you want to call them! However, it’s important to keep in mind how many people you’re going to be encountering at these colleges. Big state schools attractive a majority of – wait for it – the state, so expect to run into some friends from high school once or twice in your first year, as well as a bunch of other Floridians.

But, if you’re anything like me, you want to get a taste of everything – you want to share morning coffee with someone from New York, argue with a roommate from Kansas, and ask to study with someone from China.

There’s no right or wrong. No matter if you like seeing similarities between yourself and others, as far as home residency, or if you prefer an international collision right outside your dorm, it is advisable you check out the percentage of out-of-state students attending your dream college, as well as how many states (and countries) are represented.

All of these entities are just small aspects that go unnoticed while a student is on the prowl for their dream college, while trying to make it past all of the S.A.T.s, recommendation letters, and the Common Application essays. If you just take a minute to inspect through only a few of the schools on your long and impressive list of potential colleges, you’ll narrow down that chaos and really learn about the school, rather than just apply.

Photograph by Christy Box, Grade 10

Anna H.
7/19/2011 02:07:42 am

This is great! I mean, I don't have to go to college for another 5 years, but I have started looking a little bit at colleges that suit my wanted career field. I have one, but I want another (because the first I don't know if I can go to long enough to get the degree I want). And, of course, I need to be open minded. So I want choices :)

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