Shout out to all of my high school seniors that are furiously writing essays, figuring out FAFSA, and choosing schools. I’m a little late on college essays/common app so I figured I wouldn’t do a how-to-write-your-common-app essay post or things regarding that, but let me know and I can do a post on tips and tricks. Maybe I’ll even post my common app essay on here…regardless, this post is going to be centered around students and parents and how to choose the best school for the next 3-5 years (depending on what programs you’re going into).
So the first thing to take into consideration is what can you afford? It’s debatable if this should be at your top list of priorities or at the bottom because in the end, your education is an investment and no quantified amount should limit you. However, don’t forget to directly ask your parents who’s paying for the education – are they paying in full? Do you have a college fund? Do they expect you to get lots of scholarships and financial aid? Are you footing the bill yourself? It’s important to know! You don’t want to commit to a school with a total estimated cost of $65,000 and then not know who the heck is paying that. Scholarships, financial aid, and you better study up on your loans because most likely, you’ll be taking out some.
Rollins is on the more high-end schools that I applied to, with the total estimated cost being about $67,000. Trust me though, I certainly am not paying $67,000/year to go here. Rollins offers a multitude of financial aid, FAFSA, and local scholarships really carried me through. I took out some student loans as well. In terms of that (I’ll probably do a separate post on finances), look at what bank your parents use. Check if they have student loans (Bank of America doesn’t but Citizens, Wells Fargo, Discover, etc do). And shop around for multiple loans to see what interest rate you’re going to get. Most likely your parents are going to have to co-sign because most high schoolers haven’t established credit yet and if your parents are already established in the bank, you’ll get a lower rate. Utilize your connections!
Another important thing is to look introspectively at who you are as a person and ask yourself what you can handle. Are you well-rounded and able to juggle multiple disciplines at once? Yes? Maybe a liberal arts college is where you belong. Are you looking for a one-track intensive STEM major? Maybe try a university or tech institute. Are you looking for extra cirriculars? Is service important to you? These are all important questions too.
I’ve always been someone that likes to dip my toes in all areas of study, so I only applied to liberal arts colleges. Rollins has a program for their general education classes called “neighborhoods” that essentially force you to take a variety of classes. The point of liberal arts is to educate yourself in all studies so you are best equipped to tackle any situation, knowledge, etc. (Or at least that’s how I look at it).
On the other hand, community service is probably the most important thing to me. I’ve always been involved in service and I didn’t want to go to a school where no one cared about it. Luckily, Rollins has Bonner Leaders. We do 6-8 hours of direct service every week with a community partner and the idea of that really appeals to me. Not only am I able to get an “internship” like experience as a Bonner without the insecurity of applications, but it shows that the school has close ties with the community around it. To me, that’s important too. I didn’t want a school in the middle of nowhere, where the only thing in the town is the college/university.
This aside, take into consideration the class sizes, professors, and majors offered. If you like lecture style or discussion based classes, if you’re alright with TA’s running classes, if you want professors with real-world experience, if you want professors still working outside of teaching, if you want classes online or in-person- it’s all important. Some students need more help along the way, and if you’re one of those students, don’t cheat yourself and find a school that really fits you. I’m a fairly independent student but I do need deadlines and a little push here and there, so I went for a small school. At Rollins, almost all of the professors have their doctorates and went into their professions before becoming professors.
Oh another cool thing about Rollins, they have so many safety nets in place to make sure you don’t slip through the cracks. Teachers notice when you’re not there and reach out to you, there are peer mentors the first semester, RA’s take on roles as siblings pretty much, and there’s even female professors assigned to female students in case they need anything. There’s different departments for everything from Career & Life Planning to the Lucy Cross Center for Women & their Allies.
I know, I’m essentially bragging about how damn cool my school is. But these are all the little things that are really appealing to me. I wanted a fool-proof college that I could see myself living at. Rollins is that for me. Though the campus is pretty quiet on weekends, social life here is active. I chose Rollins over some other Northeast liberal arts because the balance between academics and socializing is up to you, but both are there for you to choose. Clubbing, parties, or Disney is all at your fingertips and it’s pretty neat.
Ok. Back to general choosing colleges. Sorry, I deviate a lot when it comes to Rollins. But take into consideration the life you have right now, and consider what you want to change, what you’re willing to change, and what you need to keep same. College is a step up but it shouldn’t be overwhelming and scary. It should be exciting!
I have to admit, I was unsure about Rollins up until only a few weeks ago. I thought it was too far from home (Boston to Orlando), too much like Sleepy Hollow (there are no seasons), and that I came down here on a hunch and was wrong. I had a handful of reasons to be here and saw a perk or two of being here. With some of those reasons becoming more transparents and time to separate myself from some of it, I think I chose the right school. I’m feeling pretty confident that this is the place to be, because even when the shiny “new” aspect of college brushes off, it’s still great.
Best of luck choosing schools kiddos.