Making the choice: How do you really pick the right college for you?

There are some routine phrases you hear as a junior in high school. However, aside from words like “College Board,” “Common App,” “SATs,” and “GPA” coloring your everyday conversations, you’re also asked some common questions, which may be easy for some, but open a world of doubt for many.

“What is your top college?”
“Are you applying to any Ivies?”
“Why are you thinking of going to that small school in the middle of nowhere that no one’s ever heard of?”

In the face of this series of questions—the where, the why, the how—what happens if you don’t know the answers? Beyond the obvious “what is your intended major?” question, how do you make a decision that will determine the next four years of your life? Of course, the obvious answers usually are: the environment! The size! Their sports programs!

While all these factors are important, are sports and size really what makes a school?  Though pressure from parents, teachers or friends might say you need to apply to the school with one of the best soccer teams, or an amazing engineering program, or a 425-acre arboretum campus, these factors aren’t what make or break your college experience.

Christian Galo ’20 said he knew Swarthmore was the place for him when he visited the campus during Disco Swat and his host told him about the Honors seminar he was taking. 

“Even after the class ended, the students stayed there because they were so interested in the topic—sometimes class lasted until 12 a.m., two hours after the class ended, just because they wanted to continue to talk about the course materials.”

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Christian Galo ’20 in his dorm

That’s when he understood that Swarthmore was the place to go to find people who were as intellectually invested as him, and to become prepared for grad school.

Indeed, I too knew that Swarthmore would be the place for me when I figured just how damn nerdy everyone is. I knew I’d find my place among a bunch of young people who were just as unashamedly interested in knowledge as I am. To me, this is the true litmus test for choosing a college: “Where am I going to feel at home?” Behind the school visits and late night study sessions and constant questioning from relatives, lies the scariest part of the process, finding somewhere you will truly belong.

“My favorite thing is the people, ” said Malini Kohli ’20 “I had never thought about certain things until I came here, the conversations that I have with people are way different than conversations I’d have before, and the community on a whole is just very supportive,” she continued.

Image may contain: Malini Kohli, smiling, plant, tree, outdoor and nature
Malini Kohli ’20 in Swarthmore’s amphitheater

What makes a college the “right fit” is so much more than athletics, academic prestige and even environment. The community is what what makes a college feel like home, and I’m glad to say that whenever I come back to Swarthmore, I feel like I’m returning home.

 


 

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