Greetings blog readers. I am currently in quaint Andover, Massachusetts on what might be the most perfect weather day possible. The temperature is in the mid-70s, the sky is a perfect blue with only a few lonely clouds, and there is a nice constant, gentle breeze. No humidity, no threat of awful rain and thunderstorms, and no complaints about being too cold, too hot, or too anything. I am actually typing this entry while sitting on one of the many quads at Phillips Academy … it reminds me of my college days. I am here to attend a college fair to recruit students for the Classes of 2014 and beyond, but my purpose in writing this blog entry is to one last time try to help the admitted Class of 2013.
A month ago many of you who received the great news of your admission to Hopkins on March 27th. Some of you have made the easy and great decision to become a Johns Hopkins blue jay (Woo hoo!), while others have decided on going somewhere else (why are you still reading this blog then ???). But there is a third group of you out there … and those are the ones who are admitted yet undecided. The ones who are struggling with the ultimate decision of what college to attend It is this group that I write to currently. With the May 1st response deadline only days away, if you fall into this last group, you must be at the stage of pulling your hair out. I hope I can help.
Actually, I hope I have helped a bit so far. Since the release of decisions, I have posted a few blog entries under the title: WHY HOPKINS. If you have yet to read through these entries, I encourage you to do so, especially the one I posted last week that shared thoughts from current students. I also hope that you had the chance to visit campus for one of the Admitted Student Open Houses. And/Or I hope you have been using the Hopkins Forums and the Admitted Student Facebook Groupto learn as much as you can about JHU. Despite all of these resources, I know that some of your are still not ready to make that final decision.
For those of you who have yet to sign the bottom line of an enrollment form I know you don't need to be reminded that May 1st - College Decision Day - is at the end of the week. You are probably feeling an overwhelming mix of anxiety, confusion, and hopefully a tinge of excitement too. Not sure if you should choose Johns Hopkins over any of the other elite schools you have been admitted to. Trying to imagine what your four years will be like in Baltimore or at University X, Institution Y, or College Z. Attempting to predict the "value" of the education you will get at each school. For many, this is the first major decision you will make in life, and though in the end it will not determine your future completely, it does matter. I commend you for taking your time and focusing your energies, but I also will ve quite parental and let you know it is time to make a decision. And they say "getting in" is the hardest part!
So how do you choose? How do you make this big decision? What is the right choice? All these questions are justified, but in the end it is you and you alone who has to make the choice. Choosing which college / university to attend is one of those life-altering decisions where you must weigh all the factors, big and small. This decision-making process challenges your ability to self analyze your personal priorities and preferences while forcing you to attempt to predict the next four years of your life. And not only does this choice impact those next four years, it will leave an eternal mark on you as the school becomes your alma mater and an important line on your resume.
I get that this last paragraph did not help and probably added to your level of stress, so let me see if I can be of assistance throughout the rest of this post. I have ten plus years of experience watching students just like all of you struggle with which school will be the right one. As well, way back when, I also struggled with making the Big Decision. It can be a daunting task but if you approach the decision-making process with an organized mind and game plan, you will find clarity and the right choice. Over the years, my advice for the admitted yet undecided falls into four categories: I. Self-analysis and Research
I get that this last paragraph did not help and probably added to your level of stress, so let me see if I can be of assistance throughout the rest of this post. I have ten plus years of experience watching students just like all of you struggle with which school will be the right one. As well, way back when, I also struggled with making the Big Decision. It can be a daunting task but if you approach the decision-making process with an organized mind and game plan, you will find clarity and the right choice. Over the years, my advice for the admitted yet undecided falls into four categories:
I. Self-analysis and Research
The first thing you must do when approaching a Big Decision is to determine what is it you want/need and then research all the aspects behind the decision. You may have done one before, or avoided it like a plague these past few years, but a self-analysis can be quite helpful before deciding which college to attend. It is a good idea to re-consider those big questions you asked before, and it you didn't do one, now is definitely the time. Ask yourself the big questions, and be honest with yourself when it comes to the answers:
If you visited your final choice schools it is probably easier to answer these questions with the certain schools in mind. If you didn't visit, hopefully you did a lot of surfing on each school's Web sites to gather as much information as possible. You may also want to create a ranking system for each question you ask of yourself and how each school measures up as well.
II. Pro / Con Lists
I can not emphasize this step enough. Make PRO/CON lists for each school you are considering. For some of you the thought of lists may be laughable, but take my word for it -- they actually work. It is time for you to really start thinking about FIT. Write down the name of each school you are considering, then draw two columns under each school's name -- one with a "+" and one with a "-". Now start listing the strengths and weaknesses.
Not only is this the time where you can catalog your personal opinions about each school's strengths and weaknesses, it also becomes a study in what characteristics you find most important. If you did a self-analysis, now is the perfect time to match your thoughts of what you want to your opinions about what each school has to offer. Location, size, friendliness, professors, extracurricular offerings, cost, academic opportunities, etc. -- list everything from the most important detail to the most minute. Nothing is too ridiculous to be included on these lists, and actually the best thing is to keep these lists private so they remain lists of your own thoughts. Consider it a personal brain dump that in the end will bring clarity, focus, and the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. All in all, this is your compare and contrast system, and as I said it can really work.
III. Do Not Focus on Statistics and Rankings
Rankings and statistics can be helpful as you first start thinking about colleges and as you decide where to apply. In all honesty though, rankings are superficial at best when deciding which school to ultimately attend.
Seriously, statistical analysis should be kept to the process of choosing which schools to apply to. Throw US News out the window; ignore the numbers that can actually be manipulated to prove any point you want; avoid side-by-side number comparisons of schools. It is time to focus on the intangibles. The schools you have been admitted to are all fantastic and they will all offer you amazing opportunities if you have the initiative and drive (which you probably do). Numbers can not predict whether you will be happy for the next four years, whether you will be challenged, whether you will be stimulated. The top schools are all top schools - it now comes down to FIT, and a percentage, formula, or statistics can not determine FIT.
Just yesterday I was speaking with a student struggling to make his college decision and he was asking questions about acceptance rates and rankings. He actually told me he was probably going to choose the school that was ranked higher than JHU by U.S. News because of that ranking. When I inquired more he told me he enjoyed his visit to JHU immensely, even more than his visit to the "higher ranked" school. I finally had to ask what was the other school, and lo and behold it was a school ranked one spot higher than Hopkins. I then shared my green versus red apple, not apple versus orange metaphor and I think I finally got him to understand that you don't choose your college because of an arbitrary ranking that is created by the news media to make money.
IV. Input From Others (Be Aware)
If you listen to anything I write, please listen to this -- make sure to avoid hearsay, conjecture, myths, rumors - they often are far from the truth: Can I say this any louder? Each and every individual sees each and every college differently. Do your own research, get information directly from the source, and avoid the biased comments and come up with your personal thoughts. There is no cardinal rule that says if you read it or heard it, it must be 100% true. You need to filter through everything. (I hope you hear that College Confidential students!) Consider everything -- both overly positive and overly negative comments -- with a grain of salt. And ultimately, your own personal conclusions are the ones to believe.
At Hopkins, we deal with myths and conjecture about our school way too much. If you are a frequent visitor to our blogs, message boards, or just speak with our students you will see that we are not only sick of these myths but can dispel them at every turn. And this is not just true about myths at Hopkins, many other elite schools are haunted by ridiculous and untrue myths. Make your own opinions and stick to them.
Clearly you need to talk with others about this decision, and your family should be the top of the list. Your college counselor or respected teacher is another great source. Friends can be helpful, but their advice could also be worth nothing. Make sure to gather information from the school's themselves, check out their message boards or Facebook group -- gather as much information as possible. Just do me one favor, don't rely on anonymous sources. Do not get hung up on myths, stereotypes, or other hearsay -- filter through the information along with your own personal conclusions.
Still confused? Still can't make the decision?
If all else fails, listen to your gut! In the end, know one thing ... once you make your final selection you have found the RIGHT SCHOOL. It is one of the hidden truths of the admissions process, once you commit you begin to mold your choice into the perfect school for you.College is what you make of it - go out there and be successful.
Best of luck!
And choose Johns Hopkins ... wink, wink.