Posted by: Staff | 02.18.2010

The College Column: #1 The College List

LUCY HICKS ’10

The College Column is a new column that will come out every few weeks on the Beaver Reader website. This column will be written by a group of seniors who will be giving insight on the same process, panic, and stress that the juniors are mostly likely going through now. We hope this advice will help juniors learn how to tackle the college process with more confidence. Also, in addition to the College Column and the College Essays posted, supplementary college essays will start to be posted on the website.

# 1 The College List

“It’s one of the more daunting lists that you will make in your high school career: the list of colleges that you plan to apply to. It is not easy, selecting eight to ten schools from thousands of options, in this country alone. Personally, I did not even feel like taking on the whole ordeal for myself. Instead, I left the task to my parents in the summer before Junior year, and before I knew, I had a list of twenty liberal arts colleges all in New England, and all extremely difficult to get into. It was only until halfway into the summer before senior year when I actually realized the importance of choosing schools for yourself, and knowing what you want in a school, rather than letting others influence your decision.

My revelation occurred during a visit at Dartmouth, while taking a tour. Just looking around the campus, I felt more comfortable walking around a bigger campus, and felt more at home with more people travelling between classes. This changed my list entirely, from colleges with less than 2,000 undergraduates to Universities with more than 8,000 students, just undergrad. Readjusting my list look time, and I don’t recommend making that important decision over the summer.

Though I am certainly not an expert, these are my suggestions for picking and choosing the colleges you will apply to next year.

1) Make sure you tour multiple different kinds of Colleges and Universities. Don’t limit yourself to what you think you would like. Tour big, small, medium, liberal, more focused curriculums, reaches, and definitely safeties.

2) Start visiting sooner rather than later. Definitely try to visit while classes are in session, so you have a true feel for how the campus will feel when you actually will be spending time there.

3) Check out the curriculum while you are there. Before you fall in love with the school, make sure they have the courses and opportunities you want in a college.

4) Fourth, and most important. Don’t make your list solely based on SAT scores. Go by what the college offers, and how comfortable you feel while on campus. Attending a college just for the rep will most likely end badly.”

 Lucy Hicks ’10

“The process I went through to put together my college list was very different from others’ experiences for one big reason: I looked primarily at international schools, for a variety of reasons. This raises a lot of eyebrows when I mention it to people, because most put no thought into going outside of the United States for college.

I looked at schools in three countries outside the United States: Canada, Ireland, and the United Kingdom. The processes for British and Irish schools are very similar to each other, but very different from the process for Canadian schools, so I will talk about them separately.

The important thing to keep in mind when looking at Canadian schools is that the most important thing is test scores. Depending on the school, there may be an essay. Another important thing to keep in mind is that Canadian schools tend to be much larger than schools in the United States, and the number of schools that would be described as “liberal arts colleges” is relatively small compared to the United States. When your undergraduate enrollment is over 50,000, it might be difficult to give every applicant’s essay the attention it would deserve.

Another important thing to keep in mind when looking at Canadian schools is that you are expected to have at least a general idea of what you want to study. Most of the large Canadian schools are divided into several faculties, e.g. the University of Toronto’s Faculties of Applied Science and Engineering, Arts and Science, Forestry, Law, Medicine, Music, and Social Work, among others. When applying to one of these schools, you have to know which faculty you are interested in — for most people, this will probably be “arts and science”, “humanities and social science”, “arts”, “science”, or similar. Note that “arts” in this context is like “arts” in “liberal arts” — it is not an art school.

When I started looking at schools in Canada, I had a couple of things I was looking for. I knew I was interested in studying language, especially either French or the Celtic languages. I was also looking for an urban environment closer to the east coast than the west coast. Another factor to consider is language, given Canada — if you speak French, there are some very good francophone schools in Canada, both inside Québec and out of it. The urban and Celtic studies qualifications narrowed down my choices much more than French — every school in Canada offers French. I was also looking for a school with a relatively large international profile. This left me with a small set of schools: the University of Toronto, the only one in the set that offers Celtic studies; McGill University in Montréal; the Université de Montréal; Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario; and Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. I ended up deciding against applying to the Université de Montréal, despite the support they offer incoming English-speaking students, Dalhousie, and Queen’s, for a variety of reasons including my lack of confidence in my French skills and too small of an international profile.

Looking at schools in the United Kingdom and Ireland is a bit more complicated. Like in Canada, schools in Europe tend to be larger than schools in the United States. Also like Canada, you need to have an idea of what you want to study when you are applying. Unlike Canada, where you need only know if you are interested in “arts” or “sciences” or “engineering” or what have you, in the United Kingdom and Ireland, you have to know what subject you intend to study. When you arrive at university, you enter your degree program immediately.

When I started looking at schools in the United Kingdom, the first decision I made was against applying to schools in England or Wales. English and Welsh schools function differently from Scottish schools: they are on a three-year degree cycle instead of four years. I ended up applying to Oxford as a very long shot, but that’s another story. Once I had narrowed down my search to Scottish schools, I had the same kinds of criteria as for Canadian schools: I was looking for something urban, with a big international profile, preferably offering Celtic studies. The number of urban centers in Scotland is fairly small, which narrowed down my choices rather a lot. I ended up picking out two Scottish schools: the University of Edinburgh, which offers Celtic studies, and the University of St Andrews, which is very well-known internationally. The situation is similar in Ireland: the number of Irish schools that are well-known internationally is pretty much one, Trinity College Dublin. Once I knew which schools I was looking at, I had to choose programs to apply for.”

Nat Harrington ’10

“I thought I had my entire college list completed by Junior College Night in early March. Little did I know that this list would change numerous times before application deadlines were due in late December. Now that I think about it, only 2 or 3 of the colleges on my original list stayed with me through the entire college process.

After my first college counseling meeting at Beaver, I left with about 25 colleges and universities to check out. About a third of them were schools I had never heard of. Fortunately, there were websites like CollegeProwler.com, Unigo.com, and CollegeConfidential.com, which allowed me to get an inside look at what goes on inside the colleges. The reviews on these sites are all written by students that currently or have previously attended the college, and they spill some of the deepest, darkest secrets that the college admissions office don’t want you to know about.

Trying to finalize my college list was a little nerve wracking; however, college visits definitely helped me narrow my list down. For me, visits to campuses were really the final deciding factor to whether a college stayed on my list or was booted off. Sometimes, when I took a tour of a campus and sat in on an information session, I fell in love with the school. Sometimes the exact opposite situation occurred, where I visited a school that I wasn’t too sure about, and afterwords came to the conclusion that it was not the right match for me.

Overall there were three main factors that I had to consider when completing my college list.

1.) Location: I wanted to stay close to home, in the Massachusetts area.

2.) Size: I wanted a small-medium sized school (between 600-1500 freshmen)

3.) Curriculum: I wanted a strict curriculum where I would be challenged, receive a well-rounded education, and be able to make interdisciplinary connections.

All the other opportunities, like clubs and organizations, the colleges also had to offer were simply bonuses which made me fall in love with the schools I applied to even more.”

Sheyda Bautista-Saeyan ’10

“For me, there were a few major factors that went into creating my list.

A) SIZE. I knew I didn’t want to go to a huge school, not because I don’t love big school spirit, but I wanted my classes to be small enough that the professor could know my name.

B) LIBERAL ARTS. Though I don’t have much of an idea as to what I’m going to study in college, I know that I don’t want to be an engineer and would like to get a well rounded education.

C) LOCATION. Choosing only from small liberal arts colleges, most of my list was in the north east: New England, Pennsylvania, and New York. Another big part of location for me was what kind of town the college is located in. If the town was desolate and boring, then I really would not want to spend four years of my life there.

Those were really the three major factors that went into making my list, maybe even in that order. I would not put any schools out of your reach just yet, because you never know what could happen. The only thing that you can focus on now is your grades and possibly your scores, though I would definitely not obsess over either of those. I had heard several times from different people that if you write an amazing essay and have a great application, it can help your chances if you don’t fit the projected GPA or SAT scores of the school. Something else to note about the initial list of schools is that, at least for me, I didn’t plan on applying to half of the schools on my list anyway. My initial list may have been thirty schools; fifteen that I seriously thought about applying to. So don’t freak out about your list. In addition, you can always take off or add schools to your list. There are no rules saying you can’t.”

Tyler Starr ’10

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