Summer has just started but plenty of people are already thinking about the coming school year. In particular, anyone who will be a senior. A significant rite of passage in our society is the graduation ceremony, and perhaps the most significant of all, the graduation from high school. Entry into adulthood. Many soon-to-be seniors and their parents are in discussion about what comes next, whether it’s working or more schooling in the form of college.
I would like to offer two tips that can make a difference in collegiate experience and may well be key to ensuring the student stays in school and finishes.
What is the school known for? I had no idea when I went to college that the school I selected was known for graduating teachers and physical and occupational therapists. I was studying neither. Oops. More than challenging me to find a program I felt comfortable in, I had a challenge in relating to other students, even ones in my classes. Many of them had different expectations of their academic careers and what would come after. While I planned on working in engineering or technology, many of the females I ran into planned on getting married and having a family. This is when I learned what else the college I’d selected was known for. The MRS degree. As my plans were to have a career and put off marriage (and family was nowhere on my scope), this put further distance between me and many of the other students in my dorm and in my classes. Many of the men were also studying to be teachers and also expressed a desire to be married and start a family sooner than later. In fact, a couple of the guys on our floor became engaged during the school year.
If I had known that different schools were known for different areas of study, I could have saved myself a lot of frustration and culture shock.
What is the desired degree? My husband always knew he wanted to be an engineer. He applied to schools that were known for their engineering programs. He researched and selected several, was accepted at more than one, and made a choice based on other factors. If a soon-to-be senior knows they want to become a veteranarian, they should seek out a school known for their programs (i.e. MSU or Texas A & M). If they want to be a doctor, see if there’s a medical school that has a specialty they are interested in (i.e. Wayne State University not only has an excellent medical school and residency program, they were one of the first in the country to embrace alternative medicine and include it in their programs. Many books on various alternative medicine theories are written by former graduates). A student is more ilkely to be successful if they are able to feel they are with their peers.
Check out the campus and the city and state (or country) it’s in. I have spent most of my life living around urban and metropolitan areas. Many of my fellow college students came from small communities where it was the norm to take a school bus 50 or more miles to the next school for a football game. The college I went to was in a very rural area. I had no idea that not all college campuses and the cities and states they are located in are the same. Talk about culture shock.
A local DJ was fired for playing rock and roll on the radio station and the city tried to make it against the law for George Michael’s I Want Your Sex video to be played on cable TV. Thank God for the FCC and the Constitution!
I not only couldn’t relate to a lot of the student body, I couldn’t relate to the community I was living in. It was too small and much too rural for me. It was ideal for a lot of the students who’d never been away from home and came from very small towns.
Before selecting a college, it is so important to visit the campus. Check out the city it’s in. Check out the area. Where will you go on weekends? What types of activities will you do when you aren’t studying? Is there a venue nearby to go see concerts? Is there a downtown area to have fun? Is shopping nearby? A hospital if you need one? How about an airport or train or bus station? Will you need a car or will public transportation be available? Will the climate be dramatically different from where you grew up? Are you prepared for that?
I was on the phone in September and while my mom was talking about my cousins playing a game of baseball, I was staring at snow accumulating. I had no idea the area got so much snow. Not just snow, lake effect snow. Oh joy.
Another anecdote: Would-be students are often surprised by rather violent displays of Mother Nature while attending orientation at California campuses. More than one has changed their minds and gone elsewhere. It pays to know yourself and how you think you’ll fit in where you plan on going to school.
By simply taking these two tips into consideration when deciding on a college, you are very likely to increase the chance you’ll not only enjoy your collegiate experience, but you’ll stay in school and finish in style.
btw: If you hate the city the school is in but it’s still high on your list? Maybe you’re telling yourself you can handle it for 4 – 8 years. You’d be wise to consider that many people meet their spouses in college. If you hate the city but your spouse loves it or his/her job prospects are better by staying, you may find yourself living there a lot longer than you’d planned.