Prestige is not all students should look for in a college

Alex Boutrous, Staff Writer

Each year as spring rolls around, seniors make their final decisions about college, while juniors begin planning and solidifying their application list. Seniors are set in their plans, but many juniors are still dreaming big with high hopes for their college endeavors.

To avoid the unfortunate trap of applying to a myriad of sought-after schools with only safeties as back up, juniors should consider applying to a range of schools. This betters their chances of going to a school they are actually excited about rather than just a back up because their top choices didn’t work out.

When looking for schools, it’s easy to get caught up in the name and the prestige of a particular college or university. Focusing on the name of a school rather than its fit to your personality will only hurt you down the line.

For senior Lillie Benowitz, it is all about her education. “I just want a guaranteed quality education and if I know I can get it there, I don’t really mind what the name is.” Benowitz started her search the same way as many others, originally looking at popular state schools like the University of Minnesota Twin Cities and the University of Wisconsin Madison, all the way to prestigious  Ivy League institutions such as Harvard.

“Initially, I was looking at the schools that I definitely had heard of in the past, but most of those were Ivy League schools and I didn’t really want that environment,” Benowitz said. Originally she sought the help of a college counselor, but chose to continue her search alone, which helped her best understand what she needed.

“I also went to the ‘Colleges That Change Lives’ fair…A significant number of schools I applied to are actually from those 40 schools…I knew that they were all really influential schools and the kind of schools that I’d want to go to.” The college fair helped Benowitz in finding a college that best suited her interests in both social justice, and political activism.

This coming fall, Benowitz will attend Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts: “I chose it [Mount Holyoke] because it has many more opportunities than the colleges I applied to…Anything that tour guide told me, or the students told me, I looked at them in awe that that was a possibility…I was left with this overwhelming feeling that I could flourish there and be very empowered.”

For senior Noah Rissman, the name of a college weighed a bit more heavily, but his education was still most important. “I wanted to go somewhere that would look good on a resume. Having a good educational system was my top priority,” he said.

Rissman was accepted early decision to Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York, after primarily touring East Coast schools, including Brown University, New York University (NYU) and Hampshire College.

Aside from the educational experience it affords, college is a time to explore new opportunities, develop your independence, and hopefully figure out what you’d like to do in the future. Finding the right school involves a delicate balance between fit and finances.

For some students, the cost of  college alone presents a challenge. It’s important for students to be wary of the pitfalls of choosing a more well known school, especially when it comes to financial aid. Many students are likely to enjoy a less expensive school, or one with more comprehensive a financial aid package just as much as their expensive counterpart.

When the prestigious name of a certain college or university becomes the main, or even an important reason for application, students lose sight of what matters most.