College Application Season, continued
Seniors! The clock’s ticking on college applications.
UC and Cal State applications are due at the end of November and the common application for private colleges is generally due at the beginning of January.
So what kinds of colleges have you considered applying to? There are small colleges and large colleges, in-state colleges and out-of-state-colleges. There are private colleges and public colleges, religious and secular. And there are advantages and disadvantages to each and every one of them.
Small vs large colleges: Small colleges can offer intimacy. You could have very small classes of under ten students in your major and have very intimate discussions as a result, knowing that you will have a chance to fully engage in the discussion that you might not in a 30-60 student seminar at a large university. And a small college may have more of a sense of community since it is more likely that you will get to know a larger percentage of the student body than you might at a large university. On the other hand, large universities provide a LOT of opportunities: Plenty of diverse classes, clubs, and professors so that you can explore what precisely interests you.
In-state vs out-of-state: The advantage of an in-state college is that you can stay close to family, friends, and the community that you’re used to. The disadvantages of an in-state college is that you stay close to family, friends, and the community that you’re used to. Sometimes you want to stay with the familiar and the family and friend support system you have relied on, but other times you might want a change in your life and explore some place new. This is a large country with a wide diversity of beautiful locations in which colleges are situated. You might consider exploring the excitement of New York City or the natural beauty of the Northwest, or the unique culture, music, and food of the South. On the other hand, college has gotten very expensive, and in-state tuition for public colleges in California are significantly lower than private college and out-of state-tuitions.
Private colleges vs public colleges. As noted above, in-state tuition for public colleges in California is significantly lower than private college tuitions. On the other hand, public colleges are part of the government, which makes them subject to constitutional restrictions. That can be good and bad. On the one hand, rights such as freedom of speech are more legally protected in government institutions than they are in private institutions. On the other hand, the Constitution prohibits government bodies from endorsing any particular religion. Private colleges have no such restriction, which brings us to religious vs secular colleges. There are colleges that embrace religious perspectives, usually Christian. So if religion is a fundamental part of your life, you might consider a private religious college that can nurture and grow your faith.
But take one lesson I learned. Don’t focus on the college’s overall ranking more than how respected it is for the major you intend. You’re going to study primarily in your major, so you should go where you can get the best education in your field of interest. So if, say, you want to study engineering, it would be better to go to a school ranked 20th in engineering but 50th overall rather than a university ranked 5th overall but 50th in engineering. It doesn’t serve your interests to go to a college that is world renowned for other disciplines but not so respected in your major.
Also, as a final note, be sure to apply to a variety of colleges, including “safe” colleges that you would almost surely be accepted to. Also include dream colleges that you would love to go to but only have an outside shot of being accepted. Maybe you’ll get lucky and be accepted! You definitely won’t if you don’t try. Look at the typical range of GPA and SAT/ACT scores of incoming freshmen. If their typical entering GPA/SAT scores are around yours, perhaps a little below, that would be a target school that you would have a decent chance of getting into. On the other hand, if your scores are on the bottom end of their averages, that would be a dream school. If your scores are on the top end of that range, that would be a backup school. If your scores are below the bottom end of that range, then you likely don’t have much of a chance getting into that school, unless you have done something extraordinary in your extracurricular life.
But whatever your decisions, good luck! We’re pulling for you!