Round Holes (Schools) and Square Pegs (Students):
Beware the Sirens’ songs of “prestige” and “selectivity” - Part II

By: Judi Robinovitz | Last Updated: March 27, 2018

Part II: Square Pegs

In Part I, Round Holes, we considered how you should look at colleges – the criteria to bring to your search for happiness. In this part, we’ll ask you to get in touch with your gut feelings.

In an article titled 5 Ways To Find Your College Fit, Mim L. Runey, president of the Providence Campus and chief operating officer of Johnson & Wales University, provided advice to applicants by describing the process by which she helped her daughter choose the college she’d be attending, and here’s how she closed it:

How Does It Feel?

This is the final test. You will very likely find a couple of colleges that will make the cut, from cost and quality perspectives. The determining factor boils down to how comfortable you feel in the campus environment. My daughter’s short list included universities of equal cost and quality. In the end, her final choice was the one that “just fit right.”

And our colleague Peter Van Buskirk, in a recent article titled Find a College That Feels Like Home, advises students to look for

…a place that includes people with shared values and interests, a place where people will encourage you on bad days and celebrate with you the good days…

When you think about it, the best college fit will be a place that offers a community in which you will feel comfortable. It will be a place where you won’t be distracted by worries about how you fit in. You won’t worry about what people think of you—how you talk, what you say, how you dress or what you think. You won’t have to prove yourself to anyone. Instead, you can relax, focus, and get the most out of your college experience. That includes, by the way, your academic work. There is a strong correlation comfort level in college—and grade point level!

So, how do you find such a place? You’ll need to do some original research. Specifically, you need to experience college campuses and, in the process, be sensitive to your “gut” reactions. Quite often students who believe they’ve found the colleges of their dreams are hard-pressed to explain the attraction, except to say, “It’s a gut feeling. It feels right—like I would be at home.”

What “gut feeling” do you hope to experience as you visit colleges? Look for students who come from similar backgrounds—who share your interests and your loyalties. While they shouldn’t be exact clones of your friends from home, it’s a good sign if they are people from whom you can learn and around whom you can grow personally. In all likelihood, your gut will tell you when you have found people you’d like to get to know better.

Moreover, what does your gut tell you about a college’s inclination to reach out and support you through various aspects of your college experience? Do you sense that people will encourage and support you in your journey of self-discovery? Based on your experience on college campuses, where do you see evidence that interaction with others will help broaden your perspective—get you to take risks and periodically think outside of the box? What does your gut tell you about how an environment will respond if you struggle? Will anyone know? Will anyone care?

And what of Sophia? She wrote

I understand now that a “good” school is neither the most selective nor the most prestigious. Rather, it is the school where I am offered the opportunity to grow in the areas that matter most to me.

Topics: College Application College Planning Educational Consulting


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