Brand name diploma?
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If you speak to any high school student preparing to apply to or choosing a college, you will hear the “horror” they endure applying to eight-plus schools while having no idea where they want to go. Some even admit to not really caring whether or not they are accepted into many of the schools they apply to, and when asked the question “Why did you apply there?” the students are dumbfounded. Often students claim it’s a good school without knowing why, because students tend to get caught up in the reputations of “big name” colleges rather than basing their college decisions on their own needs.
The status of a prestigious, popular college like Vanderbilt, Stanford and Dartmouth, can be exciting. You love the praise you receive for it, but have you considered whether the school is a good fit for you? Sure, you will attain a prestigious title for a while in high school, but once you arrive at college, you will not be quite as impressive. No one is going to be impressed that you were accepted into Harvard for your 4.0 unweighted GPA, because they were also accepted and have the same or similar GPA. All of the sudden, it does not matter what kind of status the school gave you. You are not above anyone because of your college acceptance.
So, what if this wasn’t the college for you? What if you realize the location, class sizes and activities aren’t fitting for you? What happens the day you realize that you chose a school to impress others, but this resulted in four miserable years of your life, or you have to go through the pain of transferring schools and losing that brag-worthy title you were so proud of? It simply isn’t worth it to almost solely base your school choice on name-value.
Instead of basing your college choice on the name and status of the school, consider whether you would fit in well and the benefits of small colleges, even if they don’t have well known names. At smaller schools, like Augustana or Valparaiso, you can have small sized classes where a professor can focus more time and attention towards you, rather than splitting their attention up with 200 people in your lecture hall. With smaller classes, your professor or T.A. can focus more time on your work to get the best improvement because they don’t have to manage grading over 50 papers per class. You will also have a chance to improve your skills in the class as the teacher will be able to give more assignments because he or she has more time to grade them. At small schools, you get a sense of community as you recognize more faces. You aren’t constantly surrounded by strangers that are impossible to get to know because of the large quantity of students. This creates a more comfortable, motivational setting for students.
When you sit down to choose or apply to a college, rather than picking a school based on its name value, consider your individual needs and the opportunities that only a small school can give you, even if you don’t yet know the school’s name. It’s worth giving up your bragging rights to attend a school in an environment you will actually enjoy.
Position statement: Students should stop getting caught up in the name value of “big name” colleges and base their college decisions on their individual needs.