Ah, College Planning.
College planning is always stressful. As I talk to current high school seniors and juniors now, I can still remember the stress that the SAT’s caused me and how hard it was to juggle work and deciding for college. I did have a bit of an easier time though, because I knew what I wanted. I was looking for a strong writing program, a place where I could get into academic discussions at lunch, and a place where I can have a social life as well. Oh, and a place that had an equestrian team. And I found it, by looking up Johns Hopkins after a friend of my mother’s mentioned it in passing.
Looking back, I can offer a few tips. Think about what you really want out of college. Is partying really what you want out of college or is there something more? Did you fall in love with the campus? What did you think of the people you met? Look up the programs for the subjects you’re interested and see how strong they are. Pick out all the colleges you’re interested, and then start narrowing down your choices based on these questions. It makes your decision much easier. And aim high. Aim as high as you wish regardless of your GPA, or SAT/ACT grade, or how many extracurriculars you did in high school – it doesn’t hurt. I was told by my college advisor that most of the places I was I applying to were reaches. But once he realized I would only take the advice I felt like hearing and I didn’t care how much of a long-shot it was, my advisor gave me plenty of…more helpful advice. When you write your college essay, really put yourself out there and don’t try to sound like someone else. Colleges look for personality and who they think would fit. If you’ve shown who you are, you’ve done your best. It’s also important not to overly exert yourself and get worked up over tests and grades. Try your best, but if you get too wrapped up in everything, it doesn’t pay off. I took my first SAT early, and therefore wasn’t stressed out when I had to take them again.
So why did I choose to go to Hopkins? Yes, an important factor that affected my choice to apply early decision was the academics, and no, I am not pre-med. Actually, it’s a little-known fact that Johns Hopkins’ writing program is one of the top 3 in the country. So if you’re like me and want to be a writer someday, you should give Hopkins a second look. There’s plenty of liberal arts majors. We have a wonderful mix of all types of majors on campus and there’s always opportunities to learn about other subjects that your friends are studying. The other day, my friend, a math major, was telling me all about quantum physics, and I also recently had a conversation with another friend, an engineering major, about the Higgs boson particle (which was recently discovered using a particle accelerator and is thought to be the building block of this universe). So if you’re curious about pretty much anything and everything, Johns Hopkins is the place to be.
But the amazing academics is not the only reason why I chose Hopkins over every other college. When I came to campus as a prospective student, the atmosphere was so friendly and welcoming that when I came home I decided to apply ED. Ignore everything you hear about Hopkins being ‘cutthroat.’ Yes, we do have a lot of work, but everyone is willing to help each other, and if you come to campus you’ll find a bunch of students socializing and having study groups together, constantly killing two birds with one stone (I still wonder how I manage to get my work done while working in the same room as my friends). You may say to yourself, ‘why would I want to socialize by studying?’ Because it’s fun! And productive! But I’ll also tell you that there is a social life for everyone. There are the people who go out and stay out until 5 AM, those who only go out once a month, those who never go out and watch movies instead, and those who stay in and play settlers and run around the quad at 1 AM. There’s a group for everyone, and there is no pressure to do anything you don’t want to do. It’s a wonderful, accepting environment.
I know I just became a cheerleader for my university, but there are so many good places out there. Just make sure you consider everything when choosing the college you want to attend, and it’ll be the perfect fit. If you can, go visit the campus, because it really helps you determine whether the atmosphere is right for you. And have fun!