When Choosing A College, Gut Feelings Are More Important Than Prestige

So you’ve been accepted to this really awesome, well-known school that causes everyone to gasp every time you tell them you’ve been accepted there.

In the meantime, you’ve also been accepted to a much smaller, almost unheard of college.  You like both of them, but something about the prestige of one school is really getting to you.

Is prestige really the end-all, be-all though?  Read on for more…

Stop what you’re doing, and think back to the last time you had to make a run to the grocery store for your mom.  She tells you what she needs, and expects you to find the greatest value for the lowest price.

You find the item she asked for, but you find 2 versions of it. The more expensive of the 2 immediately catches your attention with its flashy logo, while the other is packaged rather blandly, but would save you a few bucks.  Which one do you choose?

Better question: what the heck does this have to do with choosing the right college?

Almost a year ago, I was the most stressed out senior in high school to walk the planet.  It wasn’t the homework, the tests, or the long wait for those exciting college acceptance letters.

It was the decision I had to make: to attend a school with a “brand” or a smaller, less-known university?

Fortunately, I had the family, friends, and advising to help me make the right choice.  But there were many things I learned along the way as I chose between a huge Big Ten University and a significantly smaller, practically unheard of university.  Please take note of the following as you make your decision!

  • It’s what you do, not where you go that really matters.

If it was appropriate to capitalize this entire section, I would.  THIS IS SO IMPORTANT!

Think about it.  When you graduate from University X and send your fancy resume all around the world to your (hopefully!) future employers, they’re not going to recognize how awesome your alma mater is and immediately offer you a job!  They want to know what you’ve done with your time in college to prepare you for a career.

For this reason, it is so critical that you go to a school you know you won’t be afraid to dig into!  As an advisor once told me to do, take a look at a resume.  Only ONE line is devoted to where you attended school, while the rest of it is filled with what you did with your time at that University.

It doesn’t matter if you’re graduating from Harvard with a high GPA.  If you don’t have anything to compliment the first 2 lines of your resume with, rethink your plans.

  • Weigh the Pros and Cons.

Bust out the markers, and decorate your fridge with a fancy pro/con chart!  While University “A” may have a really awesome reputation to flash in your face and lead you to believe you have the best chances of graduating with a job if you attend it, University “B” may be the place you feel most comfortable and inclined to be involved and perform the best at.  Other things to consider on your chart are:

  • Cost and scholarship opportunities
  • Opportunities within your major
  • Location
  • Graduation Rates (the percentage of students at university who finish their degree)
  • Don’t pick a school solely based on your major.

Yes, you want to attend a school that is going to best prepare you for a career in the major of your choice, but do not choose University X simply because it is the greatest engineering school in the country and you are so certain that is what you want to pursue.

It’s a pretty inconvenient and sad story when a student realizes they can’t change their major to say, psychology, or at least not at University X because it doesn’t offer psych!

Long story short, leave room for indecisiveness when choosing between schools.  Make sure the university of your choice offers all of the majors you are interested in, no matter how set you are on a certain one.

  • Your stomach knows best.

I’m sure you’ve heard it a million times before, but your gut feelings about a university are usually pretty accurate, whether you want them to be or not!

For me, it was the fact that on my visit day at University A, I couldn’t eat more than a banana because that’s how excited I was, that showed me how much I loved it. At University B’s visit day however, I was so uneasy that I felt queasy all day.  Needless to say, I now attend University A.

  • Talk through your decision.

After months of anxiety and worry that I would choose the wrong university, it finally came down to me talking through my decision with the people whose opinions I value the most.  By the end of the conversation, they didn’t even have to tell me what they thought.

Why?  Because I could determine where I truly wanted to go by my body language and the way I talked about University A versus University B.  Voila, I had finally made the decision!

Now, before you scroll to the end of this article and see that I am currently attending a Big Ten University that isn’t lacking in reputation, please realize that I do not doubt the capabilities of any kind of university, well-known or practically unheard of.

Your college decision should never be based on a brand name.  It should be based on the “brand” you want to make of yourself.

To read more about my college decision-making process, see here:

A College Freshman’s Perspective: Why I Selected The University of Illinois

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Kaitlyn Taylor

Kaitlyn Taylor

Kaitlyn Taylor is a freshman at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, pursuing a degree in broadcast journalism and a minor in Spanish. She comes from a small farm town of 1,000 in West-Central Illinois, making the transition to a large campus challenging. At school Kaitlyn is involved with the University’s Women Glee Choir, and also sings in her Church choir and is involved with her residence hall’s Resident Board. She enjoys writing, biking, and volunteering.
Kaitlyn Taylor

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