(Megan’s Graduation From Rice University)
Last week I shared my experience of selecting a college as a high school senior. You can read the full story here. I realized in the spring of my sophomore year that I wanted to transfer schools.
My Second Time Applying To College
I began my college search all over again in March of my sophomore year. I started at the public library six blocks from campus. I spent hours sorting through college guidebooks, but with transfer application deadlines approaching, I had to hurry. I did more research than when I was in high school, but I wasn’t able to visit any universities until after school let out for summer.
My parents wanted to be supportive, but didn’t understand. I hadn’t shared how unhappy I had been. They were looking at the scholarship I had at George Washington and wondering if I was potentially throwing everything away by transferring. My sister told me that dad would get off the phone with me then start muttering, “She’s going to be flippin’ burgers next year…”
I finished out the semester at George Washington. I made housing reservations and registered for classes as if I was returning. It would be another month before I heard from the schools I applied to, but I knew I wouldn’t be back.
Visiting Colleges Before Making A Decision
Back at home, my dad and I planned a road trip to visit the top colleges on my transfer list. Our first stop was Rice University, my top choice. Transfer decisions had been mailed earlier in the week, but my letter hadn’t arrived yet. (Yes, this was in the days before online notification!) The entire admissions office staff was out, but the head of student services who was filling in for the day checked my file an shared the good news. I was in.
Dad and I still listened to the presentation, took the full tour, talked to students on campus, drove around the neighborhood, and took notes. That afternoon we drove to visit Trinity University in San Antonio where I had an interview the next morning. Ultimately, I accepted the offer of admission from Rice University. Rice was the right school for me. It was a fit academically, socially, and financially.
Fixing Bad College Advice
Thinking of all the advice I give my students now, I can look back and clearly identify my mistakes.
- Thinking that my school counselor would help me find schools
- Limiting schools based just on major and location
- Assuming that I would be “fine” anywhere I could get in
- Failing to visit ANY colleges as part of the search process
- Researching by talking to friends and reading slick college brochures
- Selecting a university without ever setting foot on campus
While my second attempt at the application process could have been more systematic, I did a lot of things better the second time around.
- Using guidebooks and other resources to learn about different universities
- Considering the “feel” of a campus not just academics and location
- Identifying the type of school I wanted and searching for schools that fit
- Visiting multiple schools and comparing colleges before making decisions
- Taking time on visits to talk to students, scope out the area, and get a feel for the campus
My college search story has a happy ending (No burger flippin’ for me!), but I could have avoided a lot of additional stress, cost, and family anxiety if I’d had better college advising as a high school student. I want to help students and families make the right choice the first time, so they can avoid the mistakes I’ve made.
What college selection tips would you share? List them in the comments below.