Allison is a senior at Hanover College in Indiana. She majors in communications, with a double minor in art and business, and is the Captain of the Varsity Women’s Golf Team. While completing her summer internship at Hilton Head Monthly, she wrote a 6 part series geared toward high schoolers and parents of high schoolers looking for colleges, and balancing athletics with course work.
Part 1: Things You Should Know Before You Choose a School
One of the first questions you need to answer is what size school you prefer. What many people do not realize is that a school’s population plays a role in almost everything you do. It will affect your education, leadership opportunities, and of course social life. In terms of education, the class sizes will be drastically different. Large schools will have classes of 300 students, with teaching assistants, while smaller schools will have classes with 20 students and you will be working directly with the professor. I chose the smaller school. I wanted the hands-on learning experience with my professor that only a small school (1,200 students to be exact) could provide me.
School size will also impact your opportunities for campus involvement and leadership positions. Larger campuses will have more clubs, intramural teams, and other extra-curricular activities to choose from. However, if you are looking to enhance your resume with leadership positions, a large school could make it harder because you will be competing with a larger number of students who also want the same positions. At a small school, the caliber of students you would be competing against will be equally as high, but there will be fewer of them.
In terms of social life, school size does make a difference, but not as much as you would think. No matter what size school you choose, there will be campus activities, lots of people to make friends with, sporting events, and more. You can make a school as big or as small as you want. You can attend a school with 40,000 students and be friends with 20 people, or you can attend a school with 1,200 students and be friends with 500 (trust me nobody needs 500 friends). Your social life at school is crucial to you adjusting and adapting to life on your own, which means it is important you find groups of people who have the same or better set of priorities as you.
Let’s talk about parties (yes parents this is important for you too). Parties are part of the college experience and trust me you (or your innocent little darling) will attend some. The important aspect of parties is safety of course, but the thing that separates safe campuses from dangerous ones is how realistic the school security policy is. Partying is part of college and alcohol is by nature associated with that. Some may think when they hear that the campus police will shut down any party and write up anyone who is underage or providing alcohol to those underage, that the campus is safe. That’s false. When students are fearful of getting in trouble, the partying doesn’t stop, it is just kept hidden away in the dark. This is exactly how people get sick, hurt, or even die. When students are afraid to ask for help, when they or someone they know might need it because of the potential punishments, bad things happen. However, if you hear that the campus police will allow students, underage or not, assistance when things go south at a party, without a terrifying consequence, people will reach out for help and party safely. My school has a “drunk tank” in the campus safety office where students can go if they become over served no questions asked. Look for a school that is realistic, not one that denies the truth about college.
Don’t be caught in the stereotypes of Greek Life. Statistically students affiliated with Greek Life have higher GPA’s, more volunteer hours, and stronger resumes nationwide. Most people only see Greek Life in the news associated with a sexual assault or dangerous drinking, but keep in mind it only takes one bad situation to shame an entire community (Greek organizations are often the leading financial supporters of charities nationwide as well). Also, be aware that Greek Life at large schools is fundamentally different than at small schools. Being part of my sorority has been the most empowering and positive experience of my college career. I ask you to throw out what you think you know because odds are you are missing crucial information. Greek Life is not for everyone, but don’t turn down a school simply because they have a large Greek community.
At the end of the day, what school you choose is totally up to you and your personal preferences, but the key factor is how comfortable you are there. I know it sounds cliché, but you should listen to your heart. If you step foot on a campus and things feel weird in your gut, turn around and go home. To prosper and grow the way you are supposed to in college you need an environment where you are comfortable and happy.
- Follow your heart and listen to your gut. I have learned that your gut is rarely wrong, so if you know a school isn’t for you then don’t go there.
- All schools have great programs, so don’t get caught up in going to a school, just because they have an amazing (enter any career field here) program. If that is the only reason you are going, you will be bored and likely unhappy.
- Choose a school that will challenge you. Not just academically, but also socially and in extracurricular activities. Being pushed outside of your comfort zone is how you grow, so find a school that will help you do that.
Allison Goodwin is a senior at Hanover College in IN, studying communication and minoring in art and business. She plays golf for Hanover and spent her summer as the marketing and editorial intern for Hilton Head Monthly.