“Who Needs Harvard?” by Melis A. '08
Generating your college list based on which schools fit your personality, not your ideas of prestige.
Posted on August 13 on TIME.com:
Who Needs Harvard?
“Competition for the Ivies is as fierce as ever, but kids who look beyond the famous schools may be the smartest applicants of all”
Yet another article de-emphasizing the importance of attending the “famous schools.” This one features our Dean of Admissions:
In a kind of virtuous circle, the “second tier” schools got better as applications rose and they could become choosier in assembling a class–which in turn raised the quality of the whole experience on campus and made the school more attractive to both topflight professors and the next wave of applicants. “Just because you haven’t heard of a college doesn’t mean it’s no good,” argues Marilee Jones, the admissions dean at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an outspoken advocate of the idea that parents need to lighten up. “Just as you’ve changed and grown since college, colleges are changing and growing.”
So, current MIT students, when you made up your college list, did you apply to the most prestigious schools you thought you had a chance of getting into, or ones that better suited your personality? To be honest, during my interview for MIT, my interviewer was pretty surprised at the range of colleges that I was applying to. They didn’t really have anything in common except for being prestigious and having either a good pre-med program or engineering curriculum… In hindsight, my decision-making process was flawed, though I know I ended up right where I belonged. I’ll never forget peopleТƒфs surprise when I told them I was applying to Wellesley and Yale. “But I thought you wanted to study engineering???,” they would ask. “Well, maybe biology or neuroscience!” I would respond (I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to study at that point.)
When you’re going on college campus tours, keep your eyes open. I went on very few tours, though I did tour MIT, and I think I was focused on the wrong things. Being the daughter of two architects, I looked at the buildings, the location, and the strength of the engineering and biology programs. What I should have also paid attention to was the school newspaper, the postings on the bulletin boards, and even the general expression on the studentsТƒф faces. Did they seem happy? What sort of activities happened on campus? Were there more fliers for poetry readings, physics conferences, or keg parties? The best is to chat with random students and hear about what they study, do for fun, and love (or hate) about their schools. Or, sit in the cafeteria and listen to peopleТƒфs conversations. Yes, itТƒфs a little creepy, but you may learn a lot. There was a great poster in the Infinite corridor last year called ТƒъThings overheard in the Infinite,Тƒщ where people would write down random clips of conversations. It was amazing to see the range of topics that people talk about.
YouТƒфre going to spend four very challenging years no matter what school you go to, make sure youТƒфre committing yourself to the right one. Every school has its own personality, especially MIT, where youТƒфre more likely to see someone wearing a cape than a popped collar.