On Deciding Where To Go To School

So today is that glorious day, April 29th, of no particular significance other than being just moments away from the final day of reckoning: May 1st, when all of the accepted students into classes of 2012 at schools across the country check boxes on forms, hit submit online, or start writing check(s) to secure places at their dream schools.

And it was only a year ago that I was in the same position, as, I'm sure, the stragglers left in the crowd. Other sources could confirm for me, but I'm pretty sure at 2 AM on May 1st I left a note outside of my parents' bedroom door saying "I picked Olin," and they put the relevant paperwork in the mail while I was at school [we had pre-filled acceptance forms for all of my "Final Four"]. It took me a month to finalize that decision, while it took others seconds, but I want to share my story to help either those faced with the same decision now, and everyone in the future, so let me back up.

I applied to 12 schools, and at the end of the process, I was 8-3-1. I had been rejected by the best, waitlisted by the best, and accepted by the best. Prestigious liberal arts schools, engineering schools, and Ivy League schools all seemed to want me [why, I may never know...]. Although Olin was my first major acceptance, coming in mid-March, it was still a whirlwind of excitement on April 1 checking websites and getting final decisions. But the excitement faded, as I knew I needed to make a choice. Where would I spend the next four years? What did I want to study? What student body, campus, nearby city, and reputation did I want?

I'll skip the details and go straight to the abbreviated story my dad told parents during a panel at Candidates' Weekend 1. Throughout both my brother and my's college processes, he always asked us what our number one choices were. Having learned from my brother's mistakes [;-)], I always told him, "I don't know," or "Here's my top three," all while thinking in my head. But by mid-April, he had me cornered. We both knew it was down to Olin and Dartmouth, so I told him, "You know Dad, I really don't know this time. I keep asking myself how I can pass up a prestigious Ivy League education, only to ask how I can pass up the culture, the students, the academic style, and everything innovative Olin has to offer." I am not sharing this story to market Olin, or to brag about my accomplishments [I assure you, I have classmates who went 24-1 in the college admissions process], but maybe to get you thinking.

The more I thought about it, and talked to current Olin students, and talked to impartial friends, the two options still remained nearly irrefusable, but a clear path emerged. I knew I would go to Olin, and I knew exactly why, but it was not for any of the direct reasons. I realized, or knew, or decided, that at the end of four years at Olin I would come out feeling accomplished, having been a part of something completely different and innovative that I could take personal investment in. I would come out having worked on countless projects, and I would be unbounded in pursuing things as long as I took initiative. Olin would, and has, allowed me to accomplish anything and everything I want to do. It would give me an opportunity to step out of my comfort zone and be a part of something cool and different. It would be Olin, the community and culture and people that I had experienced at Candidate's Weekend. I knew that after four years I would have felt that my education and experiences at Olin were more rewarding than anything in my life up to that point was.

Supposedly, I am the only one who did not know I would be going to Olin for an entire month. My parents, brother, best friend, childhood neighbors, relatives, and just about everyone else decided I was going to end up here sometime between 2007 and that of April 2008, but no one had told me yet. Obviously, they were right; it just took me a month to make sure it was the right decision. I have loved every experience I have had at Olin, for so many reasons, and cannot imagine having gotten them anywhere else. I can go on and on about how good of a school Olin is and the kinds of amazing experiences one gets here, and how at the end of four years I know I will come out proud, but if I do, you may run out of time to make your decision.

The reason I wrote this post was to enlighten people on the college decision process. It is not easy, and it does take a month for some people. I came to my decision by thinking about what I would get out of either school, and figuring out which would give me a better experience. For those of you still weighing in on your choices, I want to offer the advice: Just think about what schools can offer you, what you prioritize, and why one school gives you more of an experience or a better education in your interests.

With that, I bid [some of you] adieu, and wish you the best of luck in making your last second decisions. I cannot wait to see what the Class of 2013 has in store for us next year, and I will see you during Orientation at the end of the summer!

Good Luck!

Chris

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