The Big Decision: A Word of Encouragement


The college admissions process can feel a lot like marriage. That comparison can sound like a stretch – coming from the never-married college sophomore. But such is the comparison one Nobel Prize winning economist, Alvin Roth, made just this past year. So with that weight of authority at my back: think about it.

Yes. Your choice of school is indeed one of the biggest commitments you will ever make. You will choose one school: and reject the rest. And if at some point down the line, you’re struck by the realization that you’ve made the wrong choice, the only path out lies in an intimidating stack of paperwork: Transfer paperwork. But then there are points where the analogy doesn’t stand. If college is like marriage, what is graduation? What about grad school?

Errr, perhaps the process is more like Lebron James’ “Decision,” where you, the highly sought after prospective college student, spends a suspenseful, metaphorical hour deciding which players (community of students) and coaches (professors and other members of faculty) will best help you reach the championship (your goals). I prefer this one a bit more. But even this analogy has its caveats. The decision remains very exclusive. Every “team” you did not choose becomes your competition. To choose one, after all, is to give up all another had to offer: from the friends you would have made, to the resources you would have had, and the experiences you would have never forgotten.

Bryn Mawr has almost as many trees as we do
Bryn Mawr College has almost as many trees as we do

Thankfully, Swarthmore has never felt at a loss of any of these things. Admittedly, one of the deepest draws for me was the Quaker Consortium – the agreement allowing Swarthmore students to cross-enroll at Haverford and Bryn Mawr Colleges and the University of Pennsylvania. Although I was quite satisfied that I had chosen the biggest, baddest “team” around, the knowledge that each of these other communities which I hadn’t chosen were still accessible was exciting.

“But there’s a whole world out there,” you might say. “Swarthmore can’t possibly have some exchange agreement with every school I was considering.” And it doesn’t.  But you’d be unlikely to find more resources to help you fight the FOMO (fear of missing out) anywhere else.

Take this past weekend, for example. Two other Swatties and I flew 600 miles to spend four days at the annual Public Policy and International Affairs conference, with 77 other students (out of 250 applicants) from across the country. Opportunities to listen to and converse with some of the nation’s leading minds, such as MacArthur Fellowship recipient and National Book Award winner Ta-Nehisi Coates, could only be overshadowed by some of the instant friendships being made with students from opposite ends of the continent. Aware of how much experiences like this are worth, both productively and emotionally, I was surprised to discover earlier in the year that the Dean’s Office of the College provides financial support for students to attend collaborative events like these. This was my first, but surely not my last.

Coming to Swarthmore is a commitment to a very unique experience – one which exists nowhere else. But times like these are wonderful reminders that although Swarthmore is the “team” I chose, I can still have “teammates” literally…everywhere else.

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