Hello all! I’m continuing on the series of common blog entries where we SAABers fill you in on our experiences and advice regarding the college search and application process.
I think that the college search is one of the most important decisions and explorations in someone’s young adult life. My last blog post discussed how sophomore year of college requires a lot of “soul searching” in that you begin to figure out what your interests are both academically and career-wise. The college search is similar and that it requires you to first find out a lot about who you are in order to then decide the type of college environment you would thrive in. In this blog, I’ve decided to write a little bit about what I was personally looking for in a college, factors that influenced my ultimate college decision, and how Hopkins came to almost perfectly fit my individual “college search criteria.”
Humanities and Math/Sciences: Some high school students have known for a while what their future career path entails and what exactly they plan on majoring in. This was not the case for me, however. I took courses in a variety of diverse academic areas in high school (as most high school curriculums require), in order to get a sense of where my academic interests and strengths rested. I discovered that I enjoyed English and History, but also the biological sciences and even Economics. So when it came time to begin looking at colleges around my junior year, it was important that I narrowed my focus on schools that had a wealth of strong departments in a diverse array of disciplinary fields. I wanted to have the future option of switching my major at whatever college I attended, without worrying about the strength of the academics. Universities that boasted a top journalism program for example (which was an interest of mine at the time) but not many other departments of equal strength were immediately edited from my list. As I started researching Hopkins, I found that not only were sciences and Engineering top-notch, but Writing Seminars and History of Art were actually number one in the nation for their respective undergraduate programs–Hopkins fit the bill! When looking at a college to determine whether it’s a good fit, I believe it’s important to consider that college holistically (much like how admissions representatives considers applicants). Many people switch majors at some point during their undergraduate career, and this shouldn’t be at the expense of your education.
Location: Location played quite a substantial role in my perceptions of the colleges I looked at. I knew that I preferred an urban setting to a rural one and a city that had considerable resources for securing possible internships and jobs. Being from Texas, I also didn’t want to have to deal with many different types of transportation to travel between home to college (accessibility by either plane or car was expected, but having to fly with a layover in between, then a train ride, followed by a long bus ride, was kind of a deal-breaker for me!) Hopkins’ location in Baltimore seemed interesting to me– I didn’t know much about the city at all (in fact, I don’t think I had even been there before I visited Hopkins senior year of high school), but I was eager to learn more. Its close proximity to Washington D.C. also seemed ideal.
Size: My graduating class in high school had one hundred students even, including me. Naturally, I had concerns about the size of whichever university I was going to attend. I wanted a school that wasn’t so small that it didn’t offer any adequate opportunities in Research, jobs, etc., but I also didn’t want a school that was so huge that professors were inaccessible and all my classes were going consist of 400 person lectures. My transition from a small, all-girls high school where everyone knew each other to Hopkins was a surprisingly smooth transition, and I attribute that primarily to the size of Hopkins- as a university, it’s not too big, but not too small!
Student body: A lot of high school college guidance counselors will tell you that if you “vibe” with the people at a university (for example, when you’re on a college visit), or if you can really see yourself fitting in with the students there, then that college may be a good fit for you. I am a relatively outgoing person and saw myself “fitting in” with most anyone. Hopkins students don’t really have a stereotype in terms of the types of people that exist here– preps, jocks, hipsters, whatever. There’s no typical Hopkins student, or someone you could pick out of crowd and say, “That person definitely goes to Hopkins!” which I think makes it a much more enriching college environment. I imagine that life here would be so boring if we comprised a very categorizable student body.
Academics vs. Recreation: While doing Research on various universities, I knew for sure that I wanted to have a good balance between academics (or studying) and recreation (or fun!). There are a number of colleges that are heavily weighted towards one or the other, and in my opinion, those schools don’t offer the most well-rounded educations. After all, learning takes place both inside and outside the classroom, and things like extracurriculars and social life are just as important as writing a Research paper. One thing I enjoyed about Hopkins when I visited was that students seemed really involved and proactive, and not only in the academic sense. Students seemed genuinely interested in community service, sports, Greek Life, the visual and performing arts, etc. I could tell during my visit that Hopkids strive to find that necessary balance between school work and leisure!
I hope that through detailing my experiences with the college process and my final reasons for choosing Hopkins, I have provided some insight. Check out CollegeView’s “College Search Tool,” which I think is a resally neat resource that allows you to browse universities by your individual criteria. For those who are just embarking on their college search journey, good luck! Thanks for reading! -BK