As I explained in a previous post, I recently asked a group of friends about their experiences in selecting a college or university.
These words of wisdom come from a gentleman who attended Dartmouth College, in Hanover, New Hampshire, and who later went on to medical school. He is now a well-known plastic surgeon, and is an active member of the Dartmouth alumni association.
“My school search evolved over time. I started out thinking I’d go to a state school–Penn State or Pitt, both with good reputations–or one of the many smaller colleges in Pennsylvania. My uncle, a physician and my mentor, suggested that I look at Ivy League and more competitive schools, so I did.
When I really got going, I based my decisions on location (I wanted to be in the northeast), school size (I was leaning toward a smaller school, rather than a giant place like Penn State), and then I started in on individual factors. I wanted a coed institution, someplace with a good reputation, since I wanted to get into medical school, and I wanted a place that was a “liberal arts” institution.
I used one of the college books (Barron’s) to make a list, sent letters, and read brochures. Dartmouth stood out to me based on the above-mentioned factors, and then in particular, the quarter system, which seemed to allow some flexibility for someone who was pre-med, and the international opportunities, which were readily available, even to someone who was pre-med, since only one quarter was tied up in overseas study.
I didn’t really know anyone who had gone there, and I had no connections to the place. I really loved it after I visited, and I applied early decision. I also looked at a few urban campuses (Harvard and Yale), and was much less excited with that option, though the idea of living in the city had some appeal, as I was from a small town.
In the end, I was very happy with my choice, and remain so to this day. The four years I spent as an undergraduate were four of the most meaningful and influential to me as an individual. I wish I’d have taken more advantage of some programs outside of the sciences, but as a pre-med, I still had certain courses that I had to take, limiting time for some elective study.”
This man’s experience points to the importance of being somewhat systematic in the college search process. He developed a few criteria, and began to weigh different schools against each of them. However, he was not immune to new discoveries, and his visit to Dartmouth made all the difference.
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