Avoid Trophy School Temptation

Casey Miller, Editor in Chief

When I traveled to the East Coast this November for college visits, I had no idea what I was getting into. I’ve never been further east (in the United States) than Chicago, so the East Coast felt almost like a foreign country to me. How would the colleges be different on the other side of the country? Would the people be different?

I kicked off The Grand Casey Miller College Tour: East Coast Edition at Dulles Airport in Virginia, then continued through 5 states to finish at the Philadelphia Airport.

The school I visited in D.C. felt isolated. We were settled in suburban D.C., and not a lot was pumping in the area. The campus itself felt like a commuter school, and students seemed to only have fun when they ventured beyond its boundaries.

While I love D.C. as a city, I would appreciate a campus where you could have a good time as well and make lifelong friendships. Oh, and be educated.

In another state, I attended a campus tour at a more traditional college: Brick buildings, a vast and grassy quad area, and Greek row; all the makings of a large state school. This setting was not what I had in mind at the beginning of my college search, but I suddenly understood what it would be like to go to school there. I walked through the Main Street and felt like a college kid: cold but happy; stressed but hopeful.

That’s what needs to happen. As a soon-to-be college student, at campus visits I am now requiring myself to walk down the main campus quad and through the town of which the school is a part, to peek into classrooms and dorms, to sit down at the library and get a cup of tea, and to truly understand what the complete experience would be like at the school.

The whole vibe is important.

Of course– I wonder if any of my college admission reps are reading this. Hi, it’s me, Casey! – academics are important. But should I apply to all eight Ivies? Of course not!

I need to apply to schools that are right for me emotionally as well as academically. I like to be challenged academically, I love watching college sports, I appreciate cold weather, I want a roommate who is into photography and writing and having fun, and I want a school that will help me nab the career I desire in the future. I also want to write for 20 different campus publications and earn internships abroad. Right there, that is my perfect college experience.

I like to be surrounded by academically-driven people with similar career goals, but also people who know how to relax when it’s time. We can study for five hours, but then let’s play in the snow, okay?

Find a campus that fits your complete personality, not just your academic aspirations. Your college peers will be the people you will be around 24/7 for four years.  There’s a whole lot more to being happy and healthy that happens outside the classroom or lecture hall than in them.

I’m confident that I have found the perfect school for me. Not described here, don’t worry. I know admissions reps better than that.

I hope that you will put aside the “trophy school” temptation and find a college that is a healthy fit for who you are beyond just the test scores and academic rankings.

Of course, maybe a 4-year school isn’t even the necessary next step in your journey… imagine that?