For the next couple of weeks, all of the Hopkins Interactive bloggers will be writing on a common theme: our thoughts and reflections on the college application process. We’ve all been exactly where you are now and hope that sharing our experiences will help you through this momentous (but challenging!) time in your life.
While a lot of my friends raved about all of their fun college visits and said that they would have been perfectly happy at many of the schools that they visited, I was convinced that the “ideal school” was out there, and I approached the college search as more of a process of elimination. Here are a few particularly memorable quotes/ moments of realization in the college search process that led to me decide what were important qualities in a school and why Hopkins was the ideal place:
1) “(While visiting a university in a small colonial town) Sarah, if you went here you could dress up like a colonial person and get a job in the Cheese Shop.” – Dad
As appealing as that sounds, a powdered wig is not my style, and I could probably think of a million things I’d rather be doing than working in a Cheese Shop. I wanted to go somewhere where I could get an internship in the city, maybe work in a research lab, or maybe volunteer at a hospital to see if I want to go into the medical field. Rule 1: No small colonial towns, and no cheese shops.
2) “(While visiting a school in Pennsylvania in the middle of a snowstorm) Oh don’t worry, it doesn’t usually snow here in April.” -Parents
My parents insisted on taking me to visit the college that they both attended. A week before this visit we were at a different school down south where it was sunny and gorgeous, the quads were green, and the students were all outside. Sure enough, one week later when we visited my parents’ college, it snowed in the middle of the tour. (I’m using the term “tour” very loosely. It actually consisted of Dad pointing to all of the buildings and saying “That used to be a snack bar/frat house/other campus establishment that no longer exists.”) Anyway, it wasn’t just freezing cold during this “tour”, it snowed. In April. I think I would have gotten frostbite if our visit had been in January! Rule 2: Must not have blizzards in April. (And a word of advice – don’t let your parents give college tours).
3) “Sarah, this drive is 7 hours. We can’t all be in a car together for that long.” -Alex (little sister)
No offense family, but this statement is completely accurate. Rule 3: Must not be too far away or without a train station nearby.
4) “Did you really like that school, or did you just like walking around Manhattan with Bridget and eating macaroni and cheese?” –Mom
I think we both knew the answer to this question. I feel trapped in big cities, and I have the worst sense of direction in the world. Even though my visit to Manhattan was easily one of my favorites, clearly it would not have been a good choice to attend school there. Rule 4: A fun visit does not constitute a suitable school.
5) “If you went here you might need to be a little more fashionable.” – Alex
What can I say, not all of us can be as stylish as Lauren or Tyler. Although I am no longer wearing my lacrosse shorts to 8 AM physics section like last year, I still have those days when I don’t feel like matching my top to my sweater or picking out the perfect accessories (or any accessories for that matter). At one school I visited everyone looked so polished and perfect, and wearing sweatpants to the coffee shop in the morning would not have gone unnoticed. I have no desire to look cute before going to Einstein’s to get my coffee in the morning, so it’s kind of crucial that I won’t be the only person walking around campus at 8 AM in pajama pants. Rule 5: The students must not look too perfect or get dressed up to get their morning coffee.
6) “(At local university 30 minutes from my house) If we went here we would just be at the gelato place all the time. It would be just like high school except we would be ten blocks from the gelato. Sarah, you’d know where to find me.” – friend from high school
I LOVE ice cream. The only food that comes arguably close is chocolate. The gelato place that my friend was talking about has the best triple chocolate gelato, which is the best in both worlds. I spent a lot of time at this gelato place throughout high school, and one of the schools I was considering was only about a mile away. As fantastic as it would be to live so close to the delicious gelato that was such a part of my high school experience, I felt like I needed a change for college. Attending that school would have been too reminiscent of my high school life for many reasons other than just gelato, and it’s good to branch out. Rule 6: Must not be strangely reminiscent of high school, and must not be located anywhere that would prompt me to eat too much ice cream.
7) “(At an info session for a certain Ivy League university) None of you have had enough experience to know what you want to do yet, and our curriculum helps our students to discover their interests.” -Admissions officer.
While I can appreciate how colleges use core curricula to create well-rounded students, I would have to argue against the statement that this admissions officer made in this info session. I already knew what types of classes interested me and didn’t want to be told which courses to take. More importantly, I knew which classes I didn’t like and never wanted to take again (*cough* math). I like biology, foreign languages, and just about anything that involves reading books, and I wanted to have room in my schedule to take as many of these classes as possible. Rule 7: Must not be a school where I have to take math, but must be somewhere with good humanities and science programs.
8) “How about you go here so that when I apply I can put on my application that I’m a legacy.” Elizabeth (little sister)
Regardless of the fact that Elizabeth wasn’t being serious with this comment (she was much too young to be worrying about college!), I think it made me realize that I wanted to go somewhere where I knew my sisters wouldn’t end up. My sisters and I took a lot of the same classes and did a lot of the same activities in high school, and I wanted to go somewhere that would distinguish my path from theirs. I’m sure they’re both going to end up at excellent schools, but I don’t picture them at Hopkins, not even a little. On the other hand I’ve met a lot of people here who have similar personalities to my own, and for that reason I felt like I fit in well here. Rule 8: Must be somewhere that fits my personality, and not somewhere my sisters want to go.
9) “(At a university in Middle-of-nowhere, Virginia) Sarah, if you went here, Phil (our dog) and I would move to a log cabin in the mountains and walk to campus in the morning.” – Dad
Do I really need to elaborate on this? Rule 9: Anywhere where Dad would consider moving is a big no.
10) “The food isn’t… terrible.” – tour guide (while making a very unconvincing face).
Since I already dedicated a good portion of this blog to how much I love ice cream, I’ll spare you the long explanation of why food is obviously a priority! I’m going to miss home regardless of where I go, but I’m going to miss it that much more if there’s no good food at school. Rule 10: Must have good food.
Somehow, after considering all of the opinions/comments/sarcasm of my family and friends, I decided on what was important to me in a school and that I needed to be at Hopkins. Hopkins has a gorgeous campus in a great location with a lot to offer in terms of internships, research, and community service. There is a lot of freedom to take whichever classes you want, there is good food, and it’s a good distance from home. Also, the students are great. I’ve met some of my best friends here along with many more supportive and friendly people. And did I mention that there’s good food here?
Whether you are just starting the college search process or whether you have submitted your applications, I encourage you to think about your interests, think about what you do (and don’t) want to do in the next four years of your life, and just go with your gut feeling. If a school meets all of your academic needs and also feels like home, it’s probably safe to say that you’ve made the right choice. Best of luck!