Choosing the Right College: How on Earth Did That Happen?

Today while on a walk with a girlfriend, the subject of choosing colleges came up in the conversation. And it was decided between the two of us that wow, that’s a big life decision you’re making at the age of seventeen or so.

I decided early on in the college searching process that I wanted to go to a small college. The idea that Indiana University had the same number of students as the entire population of my hometown was overwhelming to me. I’m sure my parents had a bit of a heart attack as brochures came in for schools that were twice the amount of in-state tuition, but for the most part, they held their tongue.

They drove me all over the midwest — to Beloit College in Wisconsin, to Kalamazoo College in Michigan, to St. Mary-of-the-Woods near Terre Haute. I’m wondering if senior vists are cut down today by the advent of the Internet. Had my mom seen the condition of St. Joseph’s College in Renselessar on the internet, she would have saved the gas money.

My girlfriend laughed when I told her how I chose Marian — I had a stack of applications and I completed Marian’s application first because it didn’t require an essay. I mailed it in first, and had every intention of getting started the essays required for all of the other schools. Then I got busy being yearbook editor and stage manager and you know, being a senior in high school.

And I got accepted into Marian with a great financial aid package before I ever even started writing a rough draft of an essay for any of those other schools.I visited one more time, thought it was good and made the decision to attend. I then got back to being a senior in high school.

As it turned out, I made life long friends, got a solid education, and developed a fondness for the city my family now calls home……..but conversations like today sometimes make me wonder what would have happened if I had even just applied to one more school.

And I wonder if I will be able to give MaM and Junior the wide berth my parents’ did when it came to choosing a school. I mean sure, it was my education, but it was their tuition money. Years later my mom told me she was incredibly relieved that I chose Marian over all the other schools we’d visited — it was Catholic, it was small, it was affordable w/ financial aid, and it was a drivable distance from home. As I type this, I realize maybe once they figured out that I was happy with Marian, they’d just keep their mouths shut and thank their lucky stars.

How did you choose your school? Was it a process? Were your parents very involved? Was the internet involved in your college search at all (it wasn’t in mine)?

3 Replies to “Choosing the Right College: How on Earth Did That Happen?”

  1. I did not have such a great college experience. I always said I wanted to go to Notre Dame, but when it came down to it, I really did not want to. (I kind of think I said I wanted to go assuming I would never get in and, thus, never need to make that decision.) My dad was sooooooo proud and excited about Notre Dame. My parents are not very well off, so I got awesome financial aid packages from everywhere I applied. In the end, it cost the same to go to Notre Dame as a state school would have. So, it was a no brainer.

    I was miserable. I had to be put on anti-depressants during college. My grades were terrible. I do not have a single friend that I still keep in touch with from college. It was about the worst fit I could have found. I had a (very) serious boyfriend who turned into a fiance during Christmas break freshman year. Everyone else was man-hunting and did not get me attaching to someone so young. I did not have extra money to throw around like most of the other kids. And, my small-ish high school did not at all prepare me. I was many steps behind the other students and never could catch up.

    The thought of helping my kids pick a college terrifies me…

    1. Oh Marci, that’s so sad! Funny how perceptions of schools (and parents dreams) can have such a big impact, especially at that age. The good news is that you survived, the boyfriend was worth it and you know what NOT to do when your boys start looking at schools!! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  2. How funny – I was just thinking about this the other day, for some reason.

    I looked at some in-state public schools, and ruled out Purdue for no good reason, looked at BSU and IU. IU seemed TOO BIG for me, and I figured a 60 minute drive was a great weekend laundry commute, when needed, but far enough to feel independent.

    It wasn’t truly challenging, but I made some lifelong friends, got my B.A. AND MRS. degrees, so mission accomplished.

    I was thinking the other day how I wished I’d spent more time looking at the smaller private schools. And WHY DIDN”T my family encourage the Catholic schools more??? I suppose tuition, even though we knew I could get scholarships to most schools, as I did to Ball State. I spent a little bro/sis weekend at Marian w/ my cousin one time – guess it didn’t make a big impression on me? Because I never visited there once I was actually old enough to start choosing a school for me.

    My mom is from Rensselaer – I dont’ know why they didn’t make me go visit St Jo (as a prospective student)…

    Whatever the reason, I chose BSu, and that’s why I’m married to the man who is my husband and why we live where we live and have the life we live, so I’m glad I did it that way!

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