College Crunch Time

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The Senior Commons' college commitment board begins to grow as students hear back from their top-choice colleges.

The Senior Commons' college commitment board begins to grow as students hear back from their top-choice colleges.

Sophia McCrimmon

Sophia McCrimmon

The Senior Commons' college commitment board begins to grow as students hear back from their top-choice colleges.

Amanda Mier, Features Editor

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Friday, March 31st. The morning after. In the words of one unnamed teacher (hint: it was Ms. Cross): “some of you are happy, some of you are sad, and some of you gave up four years ago.” By now, seniors have received almost all almost all college decisions, and a collective sigh of relief has been emitted by the entirety of the class. But rewind six months – why did students apply to these schools? And how will they ever choose which one to attend? Members of the senior class shared their insights on how to answer these existential questions.

To apply early, or not to apply early?

Essentially, the question of whether or not to apply early comes down to two things: the student, and the school in question. Senior Clare Perry, who will attend Washington & Lee University next fall, explained her decision to apply Early Decision because “I knew it was the school I 100% wanted to go to…and I was too lazy to fill out any other applications.” While Early Decision is binding, there is another non-binding option: Early Action. Jackie O’Neil, who will be entering the Stanford class of 2021, applied early action to two schools, “because it’s more convenient to get a response back sooner and there’s no pressure to commit, so it can really only benefit you.” Daniel Jovin also applied Early Action and Regular Decision, but for pragmatic reasons: “the Early Decision schools all had pretty big costs of attendance.” Chris Hicks employed a similar strategy, but with different reasoning, stating that, “‘I thought ‘if all the smart people apply early decision, then I’m gonna apply Early Action or Regular Decision so I can be compared to normal people.’”

Must be the Money

When it comes to important factors in applying to and attending colleges, cost is perhaps the most prevalent.  Cost can rule out certain schools, or bring others into a more positive light. Daniel Jovin said, “I’m considering cost a lot. My family is lucky enough to be able to afford the schools I’m looking at, but paying twice as much doesn’t guarantee an experience that’s twice as good. Also I know, I’m [going to] grad school so I need to consider what financial commitment is going to be expected four years from now as well.” Halle Miller, who plans to study fashion merchandising, explained that for her, “Cost was definitely a factor but it worked out that the ones I liked the best are the most affordable.”

College Culture

Besides the expenses that college entails, the culture or vibe of the school (location, social life, academics, athletics, weather) all play into the decision of which university to attend in the fall. Overall, the importance of academics dominated: Clare Perry chose Washington & Lee because she “knew that [she] wanted to study history and political science in college,” and Halle Miller applied to “schools that had [her] ideal major…in urban environments.” For Caroline Pridgen, however, the decision to select Pitt was clear for a different reason: “I loved the campus and I loved the city.” For many, distance from home played an important role. While some students are more attracted to out-of-state schools, Hicks, who sought the school with “the best reputation and the least amount of money,” was drawn to many schools in which he knew people. Jovin, similarly, is seeking “a school where [he] can still be in touch with friends and acquaintances from Maggie Walker… [but] set in an area different from Richmond where I feel comfortable and can balance work and play.”

Take Away (like. Away away. Like gone in four months away)

College applications, even when you start them right before the January 1 due date, can take years of researching, looking at stats, and travelling around the country.  All of this for an excruciating three months of waiting, followed by one month of “oh my goodness where will I go??” crunch time. When it comes down to it, according to Pierce Tarry, you should “apply to places you would actually want to go, and then add a few safeties. If you apply to places you’ll get into but don’t want to go, that still takes away a spot from someone who actually wants to go there. Apply where you could see yourself going.” And for juniors, about to enter a whirlwind of spam emails from Bradley University, wherever that is, a word of advice. As Clare Perry put it, “Ultimately, you are the one who has to live with your choice. Don’t let other people’s opinions of a school shape how you feel about it. Just because it’s not Yale or Harvard, doesn’t mean it’s not a great institution that will give you a fulfilling college experience. Trust your gut and it’ll tell you where you’re supposed to end up.”

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