There are some important factors for you and your parents to consider when doing a college search. Where you apply influences where you get in, and where you go to college can have a big impact on your career and future in general. I have come up with a list of THE most important things to consider when doing your college search. Here is one factor to consider. There are more secrets in my book, The Keys to the CASTLE.
3) Campus Population This is a factor that I didn’t consider as thoroughly as maybe I should have, although to be honest, there are nuances that one does not pick up on until you are there and sometimes for a while (more than just a visit). The obvious types of student bodies available are: coed versus single sex (I think just all women, at least officially), multi-racial or all Black (although I would argue that there are a lot of unofficially all white colleges), and religious affiliation. I would strongly, STRONGLY recommend looking beyond brochures and published numbers, if you look for a campus that bills itself as coed and diverse. A campus visit is a must and asking people from a similar background to you will give you feedback that will likely be closer to how you would perceive the campus than an admissions officer or campus rep.
Let me give you two examples: 1. When I found out where I was accepted, I went to visit the school that were too far away for me to visit before I was the one making the decision. I am from California, born and raised in the Bay Area. My family is from back East, NYC but not New England. When I went to visit New Haven, CT, (where Yale is located), I naively thought that since I saw other Black people and a few Asians, in addition to white people, that the city was integrated and “diverse”. It wasn’t until I was a student that I learned how racially and ethnically tense the city was. It was the first time that I experienced that level of socioeconomic segregation and self-segregation. It was also the first time that I encountered so many different types of Caucasians at each other’s throats (Italians versus Irish versus WASP, etc.). Needless, to say, that was something I did not enjoy, but to be honest, the experience opened my eyes, made me appreciate things and people, and shaped how I looked at our nation as a whole.
2. I spent a semester at UCLA when I was researching film schools and deciding where I wanted to apply for grad school. I loved how many other middle class students of color I saw and became friends on campus. One day at work (I was waitress at the Chart House in Westwood); one of my coworkers said to me what a shock UCLA was for her and jokingly called it “University of Caucasians Lost among Asians”. I was taken back a bit by her racist joke, but tried to listen to the message behind her statement. Jokes aside, she was communicating that she had come from a very homogeneous background and that the diversity overwhelmed her- for the first time in her life, she was experiencing what it was like to be a minority. Her humor was insensitive and inappropriate, but her reaction was honest and valid. (By the way, there was a law suit filed by Asian rights activists around that time about discrimination against Asians; so I guess it’s all relative, right?)
The moral of the story is: your background will likely shape your reaction to your college experience. However, for some, going someplace completely different than where you grew up will be great, especially if you hated where you grew up (which was the case of one of my good friends in college who was from a small, one horse town, and had never watched TV- no I am not kidding- and she loved living in a mid-size city like New Haven. She ended up making New Haven her home.)
SOME QUESTIONS TO ASK: A. Do students interact well with each other from different backgrounds? Does the campus try to force such interactions or do they happen organically? B. Do you offer Ethnic Studies? If so, who are some of the faculty members? Is it a popular major with a variety of students coming from different backgrounds? Are there different student union groups and support systems in place financed by the university? C. Describe a typical student at your college? (This will be challenging, or at least it should be, when and if s/he struggles, ask the following.) What are some of the traits in common among the student body? (For example, although Yalies come from different backgrounds, I would say that the typical Yalie was very driven and willing to work hard, even compete to get something s/he wanted.)
As you may know, conducting a college search is only the first step in the college admissions process. If you want to increase the odds of getting into a top college or your child getting into an Ivy League college, then The Keys to the CASTLE (College Admissions Secrets & Tips to Look Exceptional to admission officers) book will help you. Reading The Keys to the CASTLE book will increase the odds of you getting accepted to your dream college.
Until then, do your homework. Do not be afraid to ask everyone and anyone you know (alumni, Admissions Office Reps, students in college now who attended your high school, siblings of students who are in college now whom you know from your high school or extra-curricular activities, etc.) who might know what you don’t. Also, ask the colleges for brochures, read available books, and check out different websites. And, when it comes right down to it, trust your gut.