The College Series : College Picking with Rosie Kaplan

This week, we have a Guest Post, by Rosie Kaplan, my friend since 3rd grade, and current Hokie at Virginia Tech. She is studying interior design, and loves her school. Julia talks about how to pick a college when you have gotten your acceptances and don't know which one you like best. You can also check out some of the things that I had to say about picking colleges to apply for or selecting a school to go to here.

The acceptances are in.
The tension and excitement are there, you can feel it.
Everyone’s talking about it and no one’s talking about it, all at the same time.
It’s getting in to the final month until you absolutely have to make that life changing
What college will you be going to in the fall?
Strike that.
What school will be lucky enough to have you walking across their campus this fall?

The first thing I want to stress here is that college is not the end-all be-all. You can transfer. You can take year off. And you can also find the best of friends in the most unexpected places. What I’m trying to say is that this decision will not make or break your life – it’s a decision that will effect your life. No matter what you choose life will go on and, judging by your fabulous taste in blogs, it’ll be a great life.

One of the most important aspects of this choice is to immerse yourself in your top- choice schools as much as possible. If you applied there then they obviously have a good program, as well as excellent taste for choosing you. So now think about this: when you are living your day-to-day life, what aspects will matter to you? Food? The gym? However long walks across campus are? Are you looking for certain clubs? Do you have a disability? Do you need something specific nearby – like a hospital? Do you want to participate in club or intramural sports? What’s the nightlife like?

One of the best things you can do during this time is to visit your school. Many schools hold “accepted students” days where you can get information on different programs, tour again, and they can give you tons of stuff with their colors, mascot, and logo while showing off their school at its absolute best. And I not kidding – I went to the accepted student’s day for Virginia Tech (which is where I am a student now) and it was on a sunny, beautiful spring day when all of the school was outside gathering for our “Big Event” where we give back to our local community through service projects. I took one look and said “this is the school for me” – and I don’t regret it.

If you can visit be sure to try to get a moment to talk to anyone you might have questions for and visit anything that is crucial to your enjoyment of your college experience. When I visited I went to the Hillel’s (Jewish Student group) Friday night service and dinner, where I got to talk to other Hillel members. My father and I also walked around Main Street, where the closest restaurants and stores are, and got to talk to an advisor. Visit clubs, dining halls, the student center, and the local shopping. Look at campus – is this walk-able? (you’ll figure out the geography of any campus, but make sure the distances are something you can tolerate) Are you okay with the number of roads, bike paths, and sidewalks? Take a moment to talk to passing students – can they tell you where things are? Do they seem enthusiastic about their school? Are they helpful, or do they brush you off? Look around at the current students and the campus – is this a place where you can see yourself fitting in? (I know, I know, never judge a book by its cover. Your school may not be exactly as you see it during your visit, but it’s not terribly off either.)

An important thing to remember is that you want to grow in college, right? You changed in high school and you will change in college. So look around and ask – is this who I want to become? Do I want to grow into one of these people?

If you still can’t make a decision, or if you can’t visit, or if you want to narrow down your choices before you choose which schools to visit, do some snooping. There are plenty of books and websites about the schools you are interested in – just check out your local library or Barnes & Noble! Personally, I used the College Prowler books. These books talk to current students about their school and also list and rate many of the important aspects of college life. Each book is organized in the same way, so you can get one for every school you’re interested in and compare them that way too. Some of the sections are: By the Numbers, Academics, Local Atmosphere, Safety & Security, Facilities, Campus Dining, Off-Campus Dining, Overall Experience, and Student Organizations. Each section includes testimonials, important information (like statistics, phone numbers, and addresses) as well as a grade and an explanation about what that means.

I know I sound like an advertiser right now, but I swear that I received no money for this. The prowlers really did help me make my decision and they, or a similar series, can help you too. I still have my Virginia Tech College Prowler – I’m staring at it right now – and in the first couple of weeks I used it to find important phone numbers that I realized I wanted programed into my phone (like the local police and saferide), look up dining hall hours, and figure out a nice restaurant off-campus.

If all else fails, talk to your parents and friends you trust – where do they see you? What do they think that you will want in a school? What was important to their college experience that they hadn’t thought to look into beforehand?

Think of your college experience like a science experiment: “If I choose (insert college here) than (insert who you could potentially become) because (insert every experience from your first sweaty move-in day to throwing off your cap at graduation years from now). There is no way to solve for all of the variables that you will experience in four-ish years. Like any science experiment, sometimes you’ll get it right on the dot, sometimes you’ll be a little off, sometimes you’ll realize the correct answer and why halfway through, and still others you’ll simply brush off as a life lesson. The important part is not who has the best on-campus dining (according to The Huffington Post, VT currently stands at #3) or the most school spirit (Hokie, Hokie, Hokie, Hi! Tech, Tech, VPI!) – It’s about the memories that you will look back on and the person you will become.


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