Beware the Ides of April: Choosing Colleges

Awe yes, the ides of April hath arrived, and passed. In the Adult world this day is associated taxes. In the college world, April 15th is the middle of a transitional period in which your focus and workload kicks into high gear as your end of semester projects and studying for final exams loom before you. Such is the reason I didn’t have this blog finished by April 15th. As a senior in high school, April 15th represents a period in time when you have only a half month left before you make your final decision on which college to attend and have all of your paperwork submitted.

This decision is far from easy, because in addition to choosing an academic program, you are choosing where you are going to live for the next several years. I looked at going to schools in a variety of ways to narrow it down to my top three. Some of the reasons were even a little silly. For example, I noticed that many of the girls featured in the engineering programs I received were the type of female engineers that don’t do their hair, wear no makeup, and generally don’t care about their physical appearance. Looking at these brochures I thought to myself, “I’m not going to be able to relate to any of these girls.” I weeded out schools I felt would be too uptight and places where I felt I couldn’t be myself.

At this point in my senior year of high school, I had narrowed it down to three colleges: Texas A&M at College Station, Purdue University, and Embry-Riddle.

I did all of the research on these universities and rated them based on their academic programs. Embry-Riddle, of course came in first in that aspect, but there really is so much more involved in choosing the final university. I’m pretty sure a pro-con list was involved.

Most of the people that I went to high school with were going to the big state schools like Texas A&M and it certainly had its advantages. Culturally, the people that went to Texas A&M would have similar viewpoint and backgrounds, and the unique Texas Pride that only Texans understand. I could go to the big football games and eat Texas Barbeque and go to one of the best schools in the country for my major. The school was also only about one and a half hours from my home, so it presented the possibility of going home to see my parents more than Thanksgiving, Christmas and Summer Breaks. Purdue would also have been an excellent choice. It has an outstanding Engineering Program as well as a huge Society of Women Engineers.

For me, what it came down to was where I felt the most comfortable after campus visits. I even visited both Embry-Riddle campuses before I made my final decision. When it came to walking around the huge campuses, I felt kind of lost in the hustle of people. There are some people who like to be in huge classrooms with hundreds of students where they can fade into the background and not participate in the lecture. I, however, want to be able to ask questions of my professor and attend classes where my professor knows who I am. In that respect, Embry-Riddle’s small size and high faculty to student ratio really appealed to me.

In the end, I felt the most at home at Embry-Riddle’s Prescott Campus. I don’t really know how to describe it. Driving into Prescott and seeing the trees and the granite dells and the mountains surrounding the campus instantly began to draw me in.

I’m one of those obnoxious people who likes to be super early to events and my campus tour was no exception. Before the tour began I remember walking around the campus with my dad and feeling like, “This is it. This is where I’m supposed to be.”

In my family, we call this a gut feeling, and when it came to choosing where I went to school, I went with my gut.

Embry-Riddle had such a personal feeling for me. At the end of my campus tour I had a meeting with my Admissions counselor and we talked about the road trip I’d taken out to see the school, some of the activities I was involved in and what I was looking for in my University. About a month later, Embry-Riddle came to Houston for a recruiting/information event. When I walked into the conference room where the meeting was held, my admissions counselor greeted me saying “hi Kerianne,” and then proceeded to ask me how the rest of my trip had gone. Not only did she remember my name, she remembered who I was and details about me. It was the kind of personal feeling I was looking for. If my decision hadn’t been made on the visit, it certainly was at that point.

There are actually psychological studies out there that show that going with your gut feeling can make you happier. It’s kind of like buying a car. Before you go to buy the car you do all of your research and narrow it down to your pick. You do test drives to get the feel and imagine yourself driving the car for years into the future. When it comes down to making the final decision, many people are going to pick the red one, rather than the beige one because despite all the research and practical reasons for getting the car you choose, in the end it comes down to an emotional decision. Often times, making that emotional decision will actually make you happier.

So my best advice when it comes to picking your school is to visit the schools you’re choosing between. Try them out. See if the shoe fits. And in the end, once you’ve made your logical assessment of the choices, and narrowed it down to a few top contenders, pick the one that feels best to you. Coming to Embry-Riddle was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

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