February 13, 2013

Lauren’s Story: Choosing the Right College for You

By Lauren Martin

I grew up in Seattle, but when I was a freshman in high school, my family moved across the country to a small-town in Connecticut. So by the time I got to senior year, I was convinced that I would go to a small-town New England college. All my friends were applying to small liberal arts colleges, so I figured that’s what I should do, too. But I didn’t have a mentor to tell me to reach for the best school I could, and instead, I was terrified that I wouldn’t get into college at all. I applied to seven schools, and three of them were safeties as a result of this insecurity. Here’s my list:

  • Central Connecticut State University [safety]
  • Plymouth State University [safety]
  • University College Dublin [safety]
  • University of Washington, Seattle [solid]
  • Trinity College, Dublin [solid]
  • Ithaca College [solid]
  • Middlebury College [reach]

I will always regret not applying to Dartmouth College. Who knows if I would have gotten in, and who cares? By not applying, I automatically didn’t get in. I didn’t even give myself the option to consider going to Dartmouth, had I gotten in.

The only college I was rejected from was Middlebury college. I didn’t even consider my three safeties once I got into my solids, so I was left with a choice between UW Seattle, Trinity, and Ithaca. Three completely different schools.

Ithaca College is a tiny liberal arts college located in upstate New York, and they automatically accepted me into their Communications major (one I changed as soon as I got to college and took my first comm class. It’s a great department, just not for me), and gave me a half-ride scholarship. Trinity College is in Dublin, where I’ve always wanted to live, and it’s a well-regarded small college. UW Seattle is located in my hometown, it’s huge and offers a lot of opportunities and resources, but I would have to begin my freshman year as an out-of-state student, as I applied for residency for my sophomore year. 

As I was faced with these three schools, I faced an important decision. What type of life did I want? Going to college provided me with a chance to change my own life for the first time. I went back and forth on my decision for months.

First, I looked at finances. As far as I could tell, I would be paying the international student rate at Trinity without an option for governmental financial aid, and I knew my family couldn’t afford it. I’d tried applying for scholarships but I was overwhelmed with the whole process, so I decided it wasn’t the right fit for me.

So what was it going to be: UW, or Ithaca? Ithaca promised a tight knit community, the New England weather I’d come to love, and a few hours by bus to my coastal Connecticut town. UW promised homecoming, reconnecting with old friends and a land that was familiar and forgotten. They’d cost about the same, but offered me vastly different experiences.

Obviously, I’m at UW. I decided that the UW, and Seattle, could offer me the type of life I wanted at the age of eighteen, embarking on the world. But the most important part of this story is the choice. I had the choice between schools, to decide where my life was going to begin again. As we’re nearing the final deadlines for numerous schools, remember to give yourself the choice. You may not get accepted everywhere, and you won’t go to each school that you’re accepted to, but the choice is so important.

Once you have the choice, they you can go deep into which school would be best for you. Do some research on their websites. What degrees do they offer, what clubs, what other activities? What’s the housing situation? How big is it, and is it near a city? Is it close or far away from family and friends? Could you easily get a job? How expensive is it? Can this school give you the type of life you want in college? This is a significant decision, don’t be afraid to take your time and really consider each school. Talk to your mentor if you want some advice, but remember, the choice is ultimately up to you.

–Lauren Martin, Dream Project mentor & blog editor

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