Here’s what I told my U.S. history students on the class blog; a few other people may find my views informative:
Okay, juniors! You should be thinking hard about what you want to do, what you should do, and what you can do, after you graduate.
Choosing a college can bring on all sorts of angst.
You worry about choosing the right college — the one that will advance you toward your dreams, the one where you’ll fit in (yeah, we all worry about that), the one that you and your family can afford, the one where you can cut it, and the one where you can shine.
I urge you to consider a group of colleges known collectively as Colleges that Change Lives (CTCL).
Several years an education guru, Loren Pope, wrote a book profiling 40 colleges that have reputations of making much better people out of the already good students they take in. You’ve probably heard of some of these schools: Reed College, in Portland, Oregon; St. Olaf’s College, especially for choir-minded people who don’t mind Minnesota weather; Austin College, in Sherman, Texas; Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas; and a lot of others. The book was titled Colleges That Change Lives.
The colleges had the good sense to see that they were in league with each other, as well as in competition with each other — and so they banded together to create a one-application process (though each has slightly different essay requirements).
Go to their website and take a look. See especially whether they are having an open-house sort of get-together somewhere in Texas (we had to drive to Austin for our younger son — it was a great trip, and it helped him pick a school he hadn’t thought of before — we urged them to come back to Dallas). (Oh — I checked. They held these events in August — plan to be there next August; note that these events were before school started, so you’ll have to keep your own calendar over the summer to get there on time.)
These colleges mostly present just great places to get a good education, regardless the field you want to pursue (our son, James, did end up in one of the nation’s top physics programs, something he had previously thought he’d have to go to a giant university to get; there are happy endings, you know). Which one is right for you?
I’ll wager that you’d be happy at more than a dozen of these schools. By the time you graduate from one, you’ll be convinced that you could not have made a better choice anywhere.
You’re not too late to start the process of college consideration; but you do need to get going soon. College application deadlines for early decision come quickly when you’re a senior, and the schools want your apps before December 1 (or November, or October!). Plus, next summer would be a great time to visit some of these schools.
I did not attend any of these schools, though I was heavily recruited by Lawrence University (then College), in Appleton, Wisconsin, where our younger son is now (they offered me a chance to play football, in a Division II school, which was awfully attractive). I also would be happy to discuss my undergraduate school, the University of Utah, with you, or my graduate schools and their undergraduate programs, the University of Arizona and George Washington University.
I’ll be happy to tell you what I know about other schools I know a little about, too — the University of Texas-Dallas, where our older son graduated, or Georgetown, or American, or Howard, in Washington, D.C., or what little I know of the ivies, or California schools like the Claremont Colleges — all excellent places to study, and get a great life from.
Take a look at the CTCL program.
It’s time you started thinking about what’s out there in the world, and how you’re going to prepare to live a great life.
[…] at Millard Filmore’s Bathtub tells a story about 40 colleges that have banded together to make their mission to change students’ lives. It’s great and I especially encourage high school kids to read the article. Here’s […]
You couldn’t be more right about advising them to choose carefully, and to make sure they find a college or university that is, for them, a good fit — emphasis on “for them” [i.e. not because it’s a good fit for their parents, friends, etc.]
And the colleges in the group I have no doubt change lives. But then, I’d be hard put to think of any decent college or university [the more neanderthal non-accredited Christian theological factories excepted] that don’t change lives.
As a now retired professor of history, I saw as a freshman advisor many many students who ended up miserable, and dropping out because they’d chosen the particular ESU [Enormous State University] I worked at because “my friends were coming here” or “my mom graduated from here” or “the football games” or “this was the least expensive place I applied to.”
The decision, as you note, is going to be life-altering one for them, whether they choose wisely or poorly, either way.