It’s that time of year again. College application deadlines are approaching and seniors are trying to figure out how to choose a college or university to apply to. Where do they want to go to college? And why should they choose one college or university over another. What are the different types of colleges and universities? There are lots of choices!
At freshman orientation for our second child, I greatly appreciated that the principal started trying to address how competitive our high school had become.
He pointed out that 90% of the class will not be in the top 10%.
Obvious math, I know. But he was pointing this out because the idea was becoming prevalent that if you weren’t in the top 10% of the class, you were doomed to attend a second rate college or university and wouldn’t be successful. Therefore, “everyone” was chasing the top 10% so they wouldn’t be left behind. But when you embrace that reasoning, 90% of the kids sitting in orientation would be “left behind” and doomed to be unsuccessful.
A depressing idea.
90% of our children are living with constantly being told that they are failures.
No wonder everyone is scared and chasing the top 10%!
As an alternative to having the goal of attending only elite universities, he suggested considering the colleges proposed in Colleges that Change Lives, by Loren Pope.
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How to choose a college – should you apply to a liberal arts college?
Can you get into a good college if your not in the top 10% of your class?
We (meaning my husband and I, but really mostly me) were already starting to have serious misgivings about the usefulness of chasing the rankings at the top of the class. And since I hadn’t really dug into the numbers yet, I was worried that if we didn’t chase that top 10% our kids wouldn’t even be able to get into the colleges that I had attended. I knew things had changed since I applied to college. When I got ready to go to college, I only applied to one university and was not at all worried about whether or not I would be accepted. I had heard that today when most students are trying to choose a college, they apply to 7-10 colleges and universities and expect to get rejections from several – if not most – of them. That made the process sound a lot harder and the odds of success of getting in to the college you chose a lot lower.
Research vs. Teaching
I also, after being both an undergraduate and graduate student in the sciences, have long thought that giving tenure and promotions to teachers based on their research was at best misguided. Teaching and researching require some very different skills, and I know from experience that they don’t always occur in the same person. And at universities, even some of the best teachers put their research first; teaching class is a necessary intrusion into their schedules. I liked the idea of getting your undergraduate degree from a college that put an emphasis on teaching undergraduates.
So I was willing to consider a different path to choose a college than only looking at research universities.
The liberal arts college option
In Colleges that Change Lives, Pope outlines some differences between universities and colleges, more specifically between research universities and liberal arts colleges. I’ll go over those in my next post. If you’re trying to figure out how to choose a college, knowing these differences and similarities will help you make your choices.
Other posts in this series about deciding whether a liberal arts college is right for you
- Consider a Liberal Arts College – how to choose a college part 1/5
- Difference between college and university – how to choose a college part 2/5
- College Rankings, the truth about what they really mean – how to choose a college part 3/5
- A liberal arts education, is it really the best? – how to choose a college part 4/5
- Why my son won’t attend a liberal arts college, engineering – how to choose a college Part 5/5