The senior’s guide to choosing a college.

It’s that time of year where the pressure is really on for seniors trying to pick a school. I remember being in that position: acceptance letters rolling in, constantly being asked where you want to go, and being blinded by indecisiveness. It is truly a stressful time, it feels like this one decision will impact your entire life, but please: calm down.

You are being given the opportunity to choose between a handful of incredible schools, and there are people who would kill to be in your position. No matter what you choose, you are going to get a fantastic education at an amazing institution where you will be forced to grow up a little, while making lifelong memories along the way.

With that said, the choice is still hard, I know. So I asked a few friends to do a little write up about their school to help you make a choice! Don’t forget to click on their pictures to check out their blogs, too!

Choosing a college is hard - there is so much to keep in mind! If you're a senior or you know a senior pin now and read later so you can make an informed decision when choosing a college!

Big State School.

View More: http://amyrichmond.pass.us/morgantimm

I attend a huge state school that I just so happen to be absolutely in love with. Here at the University of Illinois there is so much to do and so many incredible people to meet. I have never felt more at home anywhere else, and even though I was originally a bit apprehensive on going to such a large school, it is a perfect fit. There are a lot of misconceptions about big schools that simply aren’t true. I have small classes, many of my professors know me by name, and I have no problem finding my way around. If you are considering a big state school go take a visit and talk to students who actually go there. You might be surprised!

Pros:

  • Networking: The bigger the school, the more networking opportunities. I am super big on networking, and the fact is that the more people I am around, the more chances I have to make connections. Of course this won’t matter for people who don’t take advantage of this opportunity but if you are looking into expanding your network,  a big school may be for you.
  • Excitement: I am never bored here, I am lucky to go to a school that has a dozen different things going on every night, so if I don’t want to just sit in my room I can see a comedy show in the union, take a zumba class at the gym, go to a concert at Krannert, and the list goes on. While this is true for every school, I’m sure, it’s the variety here at Illinois that I love.
  • The Professors: Bigger schools often boast incredible professors. Case in point, last semester I had the pleasure of taking a class with one of the founding names in the study of child language development. That is absolutely phenomenal! I am constantly blown away with just how impressive the professors here are, and how many really academically famous professors we have.

Cons:

  • Adjusting: There was definitely an adjustment period. A few of my friends who went to small schools talked about how it felt a lot like high school, just with new people. That is not the case at a huge school at all. Coming to the University of Illinois is unlike any other experience I’ve ever had and it took some time to get used to.
  • Making Friends: Remember when I said networking was easier? Well that was a half truth. With such a huge campus it’s easy to meet someone and then never see them again.
  • Cliques: Going to a huge school you expect become friends with a ton of people from a ton of different backgrounds, but that’s not the case. There are so many people here that each respective group has enough people where they clique up and don’t really socialize with anyone else. Sure some people expand beyond their group, but it’s hard to find them.

Common Misconceptions:

  • Class Size: People always cite class size as a deterring factor for choosing a large school. I don’t know about other large schools, but here at UIUC our class sizes are all relatively small. Most of mine have been around 30 people. And the huge lectures have weekly recitation classes where you break into groups of 15 to 20 to go over the material with a TA.
  • Party School: People also think that anyone who goes to a big state school is a huge partier. And while that’s true for some people, you will have that at any school. I am not a partier by any means, and I’ve made plenty of friends regardless. Don’t let a reputation like ‘party school’ keep you away from an incredible campus!

Small Liberal Arts School.

em

Hi everyone! My name is Emma, a sophomore from Arlington, Virginia at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. I absolutely love my school and after almost two years in college (they weren’t kidding when they said time flies) I thought I’d share with you what its really like to go to a small liberal arts school (SLA).

Bucknell University is definitely small, at 3600 students – that’s smaller than some high schools! There are 350 full time, tenure faculty members who all teach undergraduate students, meaning the teacher to student ratio is incredible,too! Students also have 50 majors and 65 minors to choose from, which is a fantastic variety.

Pros:

  • Class size: There is something really amazing about having small classes where you have (few to no) TA’s and the professor really knows you. Honestly, I have had a professor this semester who came up to me in the hall and knew my name before I could remember his. For orientation rather than having a couple of weekends in the summer, Bucknell has a week long summer camp, complete with picnics, paint wars and movie nights for freshman to get to know the campus, their class and upperclassmen. You will also have a mutual friend with everyone on campus, so no one is really a stranger meaning you feel like you have an impact at your college.
  • Small town:  Living in a small town has some downsides (see Cons) but I will share some advice someone gave men senior year when deciding between Bucknell and a school in D.C.- most people are going to end up in or near a city after college, but will rarely have the small college town experience. It also means that people are there to be at the school and get really involved and that the campus is pretty safe- you mostly see students, staff, guests or faculty. People are also really involved on campus in other activities, even if it’s only their Greek organization which means that weekends are pretty lively. Most people also live on campus (most SLA’s are pretty small) so your commute can be pretty short- it takes me 5 minutes to walk to my farthest class from my dorm. In addition, when you graduate, alumni are often very connected to their school, something I can definitely attest to after meeting so many Bucknell alum.

Cons:

  • Variety: Most SLA schools are in the middle of nowhere, so there usually not a lot of restaurants, shops and cities to explore. This can also make transportation tough and since a big chunk of SLA’s are in the Northeast, winters are going to be tough. This can be a bit of a plus though, because it becomes a lot easier to buckle down and work second semester instead of constantly being tempted to go outside.
  • Campus Culture: Something to keep in mind that with small rural schools, there is usually a very big campus culture that most people fall into. This includes a lot of New England preppy students, big partiers and a pretty intense hookup culture, which can be a pro or con, but ultimately gets a bit repetitive after a while. If this isn’t you, don’t worry you will find your place, but you will be surrounded and impacted by it.

Overall, I absolutely love being at a SLA school, and if you feel like a small school may be the perfect fit for you, definitely go on a tour and see what the campus is like. Good luck, and if you are looking at Bucknell, shoot me an email!

See more of Emma at: http://www.emmasheehy.com!

Christian School.

FullSizeRender copy 2Hi, my name is Adriana and I go to a Christian school located in Southern California that has about 2,000+ students and is located 15 minutes away from the beach, which is one of the reasons I wanted to attend. I honestly have a love/hate relationship with my school just because there are so many rules and extra fees you have to pay but I love the types of classes they provide and the professors and the friends I have met are some of the greatest people. I did receive a scholarship, which made me want to go, but I definitely wanted to be in a more positive environment since I had been in public school all my life and had only been a Christian for a few years. They also have a super great Communication department that offered an emphasis in journalism, so I was sold at that point. The misconceptions of a religious school are that everyone is there to study the Bible or religious majors. However, at my school the three biggest majors are Business, Psychology, and Communication. Plus, people always think there are just crazy hardcore Christians, however, there are all types of religions and people and there’s a sense of acceptance and unity, which I think is great. Being at a religious school has its advantages because you know that there is a common bond everyone shares and that leads to trusting relationships and most of the times, professors become friends that eventually help you in your career. If your faith is an important thing, I definitely see the benefit in going to a religious school because you will have the opportunity to just grow and explore your faith, while applying it to real life.

Pros:

  • Community: The community is so great, which is exactly what my school is known for, since it’s not a big school and mostly everyone knows each other and can share same likes and beliefs. It gave more room to create bonds and opportunities to learn from other people.
  • Opportunities: You get to take a few core classes that deal with religion and it often gave you a more rounded look at Christianity that I think was important. Plus, there is a women studies minor and tons of groups that help stop human trafficking and other situations and you get to see them in a compassionate way.

Cons:

  • Chapels: You have to attend 30 chapels every semester (which varies on what Christian school you go to) and you had to go, or would get fined. I get that it’s a Christian university, but chapels were time consuming and happened during prime times of the day, so often you would see people doing homework.
  • Rules: Being a traditional Christian school, there were tons of rules that students had to sign before starting each year, which included no drinking, no sex before marriage, and no dancing. The last one is strange, I know. Anyone on campus could tell on you if they even saw an Instagram picture of you at a party and you get in trouble and go through counseling. Just more time consuming.

See more of Adriana at: http://www.alaskarenee.com

All-Girl’s College.

austen

Hi! My name is Austen Tosone and I attend Barnard College where the current enrollment is about 2400. I transferred in after sophomore year after changing my major from theater to art history. I love the art history department at Barnard and the accessibility of being in the city. I am able to have classes at the Met, or visit MoMA for homework. There is nothing that I love more than learning about a piece in class and being able to see it in person later that day, and often the slides in class do not do the original justice. I also love Barnard’s connections to fashion, the industry that I have fallen in love with. I didn’t intend to go to an all-girls school but I am so happy that I’m here now and am surrounded by women who challenge me every day to think about who I am and what I’m meant to do in the world.

Pros

  • AtmosphereBeing surrounded by a community of women who encourage each other to be their best
  • Awareness: Having a constant awareness how gender influences my life on a day-to-day basis
  • No Pressure: Not needing to dress up for the opposite sex to go to the dining hall for Late Night or to an 8:40am class

Cons

  • Obvious lack of males: While there is a strong community of women, sometimes I look around and I feel like I’m in dire need to be in the presence of testosterone
  • Competition: There is competition for everything—classes, boys, internships, you name it.
  • Being judged: Everyone who doesn’t go to an all-girls college makes assumptions about you, most of which do not apply to the majority of students

Common Misconceptions

  • That I never see, talk to or interact with boys.
    • I go to Barnard College, which is part of Columbia University, and there are boys in my classes and they have access to our dining hall. Even if you take all Barnard classes and only order takeout to your room, you’re still in New York City. Boys exist and you will run into them.
  • People tend to think that girls who go to an all girls school hate boys.
    • I will never understand boys, but I still like them.

See more of Austen at: http://keepcalmandchiffon.com

Religious/Bible College

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I am currently a freshman at West Coast Baptist College studying Church Ministries and I absolutely LOVE it! West Coast (WCBC) is located in sunny Lancaster, California, aka the middle of the desert.

I totally fell in love with West Coast when I actually went to visit it during my sophomore year of high school when my volley ball team participated in a tournament there. I just loved the atmosphere and everything about the place. When it finally came time for me to choose a college, I had no doubt in my mind that West Coast was the place for me. Here are just a few reasons why I chose West Coast Baptist College:

Pros:

  • They are a school specifically designed for training adults for ministry. I knew that one day I was going to be involved in church ministry so I wanted to go to a school that was known for an awesome ministry program. It’s just like if someone wanted to be a nurse, they would probably go to a specialized nursing school or a potential lawyer would go to law school.
  • The faculty and staff are so loving a supportive. Never have I been scared to talk to a professor or a faculty member about any issue before. They truly care about trying to know each student and they genuinely want to help with any questions or issues anyone might have.
  • The school was a little smaller than most colleges. The college has about 900 students which is incredibly small compared to most universities. I like the fact that the college is smaller because I am used to going to a small school. It feels like a smaller community and I can get to know more people. Plus, the campus isn’t extremely large so I don’t get tired from walking to classes all the time!
Along with the benefits of choosing West Coast, there are also a few negative things that I don’t necessarily like. These are just personal reasons. Honestly, there are always going to be issues with every place anyone attends. It’s just a fact of life.

Cons:

  • The school is not accredited (yet). West Coast is not accredited which is kind of a bummer for those who want to get a teaching degree that is acceptable in other countries. Fortunately, the school is starting the accreditation process and should be fully accredited within the next few years.
  • I have more than one roommate. So much for the cliche two bed dorm rooms with the monogrammed everything and the roommate that becomes your lifelong friend. I am definitely friends with my roommates, don’t get me wrong, but I am not a fan of bunk beds and squeezing four people into tiny bathrooms.
  • It’s so far away from home (and other things). Lancaster is pretty much in the middle of nowhere. The nearest main attraction is Walmart and that’s almost ten minutes away. Plus, I’m from the east coast so I only get to go home for Christmas and summer breaks because airfare is expensive!
A common misconception about WCBC is that girls only go there so they can find a husband which is totally NOT TRUE! Although it is true for some girls, I know plenty of girls who go there and aren’t stressed out about finding Mr. Right or even having a serious relationship before they finish their education. I hate that stereotype, but I just kind of have to deal with it. I laugh about it now because it is hilarious!
Aside from all of the little things, I absolutely adore the place and I am excited for my next seven semesters!

See more of Alayna at: http://www.thegirlwhodoeseverything.net

Hopefully my  fantastic friends brought some helpful insight to you in order to make your decision a big easier. I know it’s not a decision to take lightly, but let me also tell you that it’s not as important as you think. It doesn’t matter where you are so much as what you do while you are there. I promise you that you can be happy anywhere, so long as you make the effort to be. On that note, if you happened to be rejected by your dream school, you may feel like it’s the end of the world, it’s not. Let my friend Megan tell you why.

Thanks for reading, guys! And if you have any questions or want to talk, as always, feel free to email me!

What category does your school fall into? How did you choose it?

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  • This is an awesome and much needed post. I graduated from high school in 2010 and I very much wish there were posts like these around when I was lost and confused about college. I still kinda am tbh lol. I appreciate all of your college guides Morgan.I have yet to start school but if everything goes right I’ll be starting in September -fingers crossed- ❤ One my biggest fears about college is not being able to retain all the information I’ll be learning and studying. Can you share any tips on retaining information and studying? I hear studying in college is way harder than high school

    • Thank you so much, Christal! Oh boy, I hope that you are able to, that is so exciting! My fingers are crossed for you, too!

      And that’s a great idea for a post, I will write one up for you! I will add your blog’s link to it as a thank you for the inspiration, it should be live sometime next week! 🙂

      • Aw Thank you so much Morgan! I will definitely be stalking my bloglovin feed looking forward to that post and that is so kind of you for the link, I’m glad I could inspire 😀

  • Kel O

    Possibly your best post to date!

    • Wow, thank you so much, Kel! That means a lot! 🙂