Choosing the Right College

by Hannah Robinson | May 14, 2020

Lizzy Hosty, Communications '21 | May 7, 2020

If you were like me in high school, you’re looking at Students walking options for college and freezing up at all the different places to choose. There are so many different reasons why one college might appeal to you over another, so in this blog I’ve included questions to consider, and possible answers you may have (along with my own answers that led me to choosing Marian University!).

How big do you want your college to be?

            This was a big one for me (ha, see what I did there?). I knew that I really wanted a small school because it’s what I had experienced in my grade school and high school, and liked that I had the opportunity to get to know everyone and they could get to know me. But maybe you’re tired of small schools and want a bigger one. In that case, I would say, don’t go too big. This may be the one time the expression “go big or go home” doesn’t apply. If you’ve never attended a school with more than 4,000 students, it might be quite the culture shock to suddenly go to a school with 40,000 students. If you’ve attended large schools all your life and want to keep that going, I think you’ll be set!

            You can start by taking virtual tours of campuses online, and following their social media accounts to get an idea of what each school is like. Once you have it narrowed down to a handful of schools make sure to visit their campus, and even stay overnight if you can!

How close or far away from home do you want to be?

            Do you want to be able to meet your family every Sunday for dinner? Or, do you want to experience a new city? For me, I was not emotionally ready to be very far from my family, so I chose my college because it was a 30 minute drive back home, which I am so thankful I did. I still feel that I am independent, but if I ever need anything, like a weekend away or am missing my parents, I know that I can get there quickly.

            However, you might be ready to get some distance from your family, so go far! If you have always been more independent and self-sufficient I think you’ll have no problem attending a college that offers you new scenery. There is always FaceTime and ways to connect so you never feel too far from your loved ones. 

What extracurriculars do you want to do?

            I did Speech in high school, but I didn’t even think about continuing that through college until Marian University Speech and Debate Team coach, Dr. Kyle, visited our team. There was a speech and debate team at each of the colleges I was interested in at the time, but Marian was the only one that both personally sought me out and also offered me a scholarship to join.

            Additionally, I wasn’t really interested in schools that had a lot of Greek life. At some of the schools I applied for, the majority or large population of the student body was a part of Greek Life, which was a bit of a turn off for me. I liked that Marian had only one sorority and one fraternity because it seemed more inclusive in my mind.

            Lastly, I learned about Marian’s Honors Academy when I attended their St. Mary’s competition day, and I thought the program sounded so exciting that I went back home that day and applied to join. The program offers perks, like paying for some of your textbooks, paying for part of a study abroad experience, and is a chance to grow closer to the people in your school year, since you take the general education classes together. It has been such a unique experience that I am glad I applied. 

What do you want the class to look like?

            Since Marian is a small college, I have yet to have a class with more than 20 students in it. Often it hovers around 10. I love it because I tend to make friends in my classes easier and I feel that I really develop a connection with my professor. I also feel more engaged with the class because I can’t exactly use my phone or talk with my friend sitting next to me when the professor can see me right in front of them.

            But maybe you’re more interested in lecture hall classes. Large schools are the way to go for that. Lecture hall type classes get the job done plus if you’re not really feeling like going to class today, you can skip without the professor emailing you later about where you are (and because there’s so many people in class, you’re bound to know someone who would be willing to send you the notes that you missed).

How much student loan debt are you willing to accrue?

I got offered several scholarships from Marian which made choosing the school a no-brainer. If you’re worried about student loan debt, apply for as many scholarships that you qualify for at all the colleges you want to attend. I had a short list of four colleges that I was looking at and while all of the reasons above definitely played a factor, at the end of the day, Marian simply offered me the most financial help. And, that wouldn’t have been the case if I hadn’t applied all the scholarships Marian had to offer that I qualified for.

Some schools don’t offer too many scholarships or financial aid, for a variety of reasons. I got hardly any scholarships for the state school I was looking at, which meant despite it being cheaper on paper to Marian I would’ve had to take out more loans to attend. If you find you’re not getting the financial aid you were hoping for loans are always an option. FAFSA has a couple different types of loans depending on your financial situation, so you might not have to worry about interest rates. Student Loan Debt is a plague that befalls most of us, so it often becomes a case of how much time you have to track down financial help to avoid it.

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