Friday, April 20, 2007

After, Not Before is the Right Time

Today, we return to Barry Schwartz' article on college admissions.

4. As a student, the most accurate time to determine whether or not a college is right for you is after you are actually enrolled at a college and have spent some time there, not before.

If true, the above is a threat to the cottage industry that has arisen around finding the perfect college fit. Could it be that college tours, college guides, consultants, and college counselors are all useless? I have certainly spent some time on this blog extolling the virtues of visiting colleges before actually applying and enrolling to figure out if you would be a good fit there. Most people I know feel similarly. Visiting is key, we say, as is doing research. Schwartz argues that it may all be in vain. He may be right, to a certain extent.

Schwartz' reasoning for arguing that after you attend an institution, not before, is the best time to determine fit relates to all the unknowns of college life. Among them are such things as relationships, roommates, unexpected family situations (illnesses, deaths, layoffs), and health issues. You simply cannot account for these things in your college choice. Yet, these are some of the circumstances upon which determinations about the fit of a college to an individual can hinge.

Imagine that while in college, your mother gets extremely ill. Because you have a special relationship to your mother, you want to be physically closer to her. Unfortunately, you enrolled in a college two time zones away from home. This might cause you to transfer to a college closer to home. There are all manner of potential circumstances that could make a pefect fit college a disastrous fit. Beyond the unexpected, there is the fact that we all change. What we thought two years ago may not be the same as what we think today. While one might have been in love with the idea of a small town when they chose a rural university, they might feel claustrophobic after a couple of years and want to move to a bigger city.

Clearly, there isn't much you can do in predicting the future. Base your decision on sound research, spend time getting to know yourself, and don't worry excessively about what the future holds. When unpredictable things happen, utilize the resources at your disposal to help you get through them. College counseling centers and support from family and friends are good ones. Ultimately, we all have to foster an oppenness to the inevitability of change as well as the unpredictability of life. Isn't that easier said (or typed) than done?

Happy weekend! Next time we'll look at a radical alternative to today's applicant selection process.

1 comment:

excelsior said...

When I was looking at colleges, I looked at two small, private, liberal arts colleges in the Pacific Northwest, about 1000 miles from home. One had a strong reputation; the other was emerging from its reputation as a party school as it refocused on academics. One had a strong Greek system and the other didn't have one at all. One was in a city three time sthe size of the other. I visited both, and in the two days I was at those schools I knew which one would be right for me.

I still think visiting colleges is important, but also know that **you can always change your mind.**