9 Things You Should Consider When Choosing A College

As I am about to graduate I look back at when I was first choosing a college and what it was that was important to me. Recently I have been attending college visits with my fiance’s younger sister and helping her decide on a school. I remember that it was not an easy decision and there were a lot of things to consider. So here is a list of the 9 things that I think you should consider when choosing a college!

1. Size - Colleges come in all sizes, from a school like Albion that has 1300 students to schools like Michigan State, which has 40,000 or more. Which one is better? Well, that depends on you and what you’re comfortable with. Did you go to a small high school or a large one? Did you like the size of your high school? Did you grow up in a city or a rural area? Do you like being places where everybody knows you, or do you like the anonymity of a crowd?

2. Type - All colleges are not the same. Some have large graduate programs and devote much of their time and resources to research. Others enroll only undergraduates and focus their attention on teaching and learning. Some schools have a specialty in one specific area, like engineering or writing, while others are best known for giving their students a broad education. Other differences include whether schools are single sex or coed, if they have a religious affiliation, and whether they are public or private.The options really are almost limitless.

3. Location - There are colleges in every living environment you can imagine, from tiny towns in Michigan to the middle of New York City. If you have always lived in the suburbs, choosing an urban campus can be an adventure. But after a week of urban noise, dirt, and rude people, will you long for a grassy campus and open space? On the other hand, if you are used to the suburbs and mall life and choose a college in a rural area, will you run screaming into the Student Center some night looking for noise, lights, and people? Think about where you grew up and how much of a change you want from that when you go to college.

4. Distance from Home - Closely tied to location is the issue of how far from home you want to be. For some people, going to college is a chance to explore a totally different part of the country. For others, they want to make sure they can have dinner with their family once a week, or go home to do their laundry. When you decide how far you want to be from home, think about how likely you are to get homesick, and how much money you can afford to spend in travel. The farther you are from home, the less often you’ll be able to visit. On the other hand, with email and cell phones, you can still feel close to home even if you’re in California and your family is in Michigan.

5. Cost/Scholarships & Financial Aid - Cost is one thing that most parents think about when the topic of college comes up, but did you know that not all colleges cost the same amount? Or that there are different types of financial aid at different schools? Or that if your grades — or musical talent or athletic ability — are good enough you could earn a scholarship?

Public universities often offer much lower tuition rates to in-state students, but their fees to out-of-state residents are usually pretty similar to private schools. Private institutions charge everyone the same tuition, but they often have privately-funded scholarship money available, so it’s worth applying to them even if the price tag seems too high. *For me personally, Albion ended up being cheaper than public universities because they offered me more in scholarship!

6. Majors and Requirements - If you know what field you want to go into after college, it’s important to make sure you go to college somewhere that will prepare you for your chosen profession. Some schools are particularly well-known for a specific major, like pre-med or architecture. Going to one of these schools will put you in a great position to get a job in that area when you graduate. If, however, like many entering freshman, you’re not so sure what you want to do, you should choose a school that will give you plenty of options.

Some schools require students to take classes in a wide range of areas during their first year or two. These schools are great for students who either want a well-rounded education or are trying to figure out what area to focus on. Other schools let students just dive in to their chosen majors without a lot of other requirements. These schools are great for focused students who know what they want to do and don’t want to spend their time in classes that won’t help them in their major.

7. Athletics & Events - Are you a sports nut, or does the sound of a marching band and the sight of a football uniform make you cringe? At some schools, sports are the order of the day, the main social activity on most students’ calendars. Other schools may not have a football team at all, or may not pay much attention to it if they do.

Maybe you’re really into going to live concerts, or you love nothing better than to go hiking in the woods. If you like to spend your free time going to shows at clubs, you probably won’t be happy at a small school in the countryside where few musical acts stop on tour. However, if you love to be outdoors, a campus in a natural setting can give you just the kind of balance you need to feel your best. *Albion is really great about bringing shows, comedians, and musicians to campus even though they are a small town so it is kind of the best of both worlds!

8. Activities & Special Programs - Have you always wanted to try living in another country? Some colleges have special programs to help you do just that, for a semester or even a whole school year. You’ll usually get full credit for your work overseas, plus have the chance to learn a new language, make some new friends, and try some new food.

Or maybe you’re a dancer or a journalist. You’ll want to make sure you go to a school that not only fulfills your academic goals, but your personal ones, too. Some schools have great arts and theater programs, or excellent newspapers, giving students a chance to be involved in extra-curricular activities outside their majors. Other schools focus all their attention on great classes, but not much else.

9. Your Gut Feeling - Trust your instincts. If a place feels right, that’s important. Similarly, if it just feels wrong, no matter who wants you to go there or how good it looks on paper, it probably is. College is a very personal choice, and after considering all the other objective factors, the fact of the matter is that it comes down to you. Visit colleges you’re interested in, and see how you feel walking around their campuses. Could you imagine yourself going to school there? Once you find a few places that you like, you’ll be well on your way to finding the college that’s right for you.

Graduation In 19 Days

Albion College Commencement

This week I have been thinking a lot about my future. I am going to look at houses to rent for after graduation, going to a second interview for a job, and attending many senior banquets. It seems like this semester flew by and now in only 19 days I will be wearing my cap and gown while walking up the steps of Kresge to receive my Bachelor’s Degree.

But even though every decision that I need to make right now is for my future – it makes me look back at the past four years here at Albion. I have made so many great friends here and many memories that I will look back on during my life.

I remember my first ever move-in day at Albion and meeting my roommate and her family.

I remember making chili in the dorm kitchen with all of my friends.

I remember going to New York and Boston with the Briton Singers choir.

I remember going to my first Fraternity party – Highlighter Party.

I remember going through sorority recruitment and get my bid to Kappa Alpha Theta.

I remember switching my major and minor probably five times.

I remember living off-campus in Philadelphia for four months and working at my internship.

I remember all of the Union Board events in the Kellogg Center.

I remember the Big Shows in the spring time.

I remember going to Fraternity Formals in Canada.

I remember participating in philanthropy events like Anchorsplash and Powderpuff.

I remember going to get ice cream with my friends at Frosty Dan’s.

And I will always remember my graduation day. After all – only 22% of the population has a Bachelor’s Degree!

There are so many memories, I could go on forever. Albion has taught me so much but most importantly it gave me the opportunities that I needed to be able to find myself and what I want out of my life. Io Triumphe!

New Beginnings

Two years ago I would have never imagined myself doing some of the activities that I’m now doing here at Albion.  At the start of my freshman year I soon realized that this was a school where one doesn’t simply go to class but rather they get involved in just about anything and everything they fancy.  When I was registering for classes, I saw a PE credit that offered western riding lessons.  I decided to take the class for a half a credit, because I have always had an interest in horses and to be honest I thought–“why not”.  I figured I was in college and this opportunity was dangling in front of my face, so it would have been foolish for me to ignore it.

To say the least, walking into the barn the first day was intimidating and there were a few times that I doubted if I really belonged there. I was surrounded with unfamiliar faces, an unfamiliar setting and most importantly animals that I realized I literally knew nothing about. Luckily, all activities that one could get involved in at Albion facilitate a welcoming environment, and that feeling of intimidation went away quickly. I ended up falling in love with the sport and the girls that I met at the barn.

After two lessons, my professor actually asked me if I wanted to join the team, and I went out on limb once again and said yes. She is now my coach and most definitely one of the most amazing people that I have ever met —I’m not exaggerating either. I would of laughed if someone told me that I would be a member of the equestrian team and that I will actually win a few blue ribbons. Now that I’m at Albion it doesn’t feel completely absurd. That’s one of my school’s shining attributes a person can literally do anything they want. As cheesy as that sounds, it’s the truth here, all a person needs to do is embrace the opportunities that are laid out for them. Now that I’m on the team I can’t even imagine what my life would be like without it.

11th Annual Jessie’s Gift Charity Classical Basketball Game

Last Friday was a special event for Sigma Nu because they celebrated their 11th Anniversary of Jessie’s Gift. The purpose of Jessie’s Gift is to celebrate the life of Ms. Jessie Longhurst and her passion for mentoring youth in her community. So to conclude this event, a basketball game is played between Sigma Nu and Alpha Tau Omega as well as few words from the Longhurst family.

Congratulations Sigma Nu, Albion College Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), and to the beautiful the Longhurst family for an inspirational event! Continue to strive for excellence.

 

To the world, you may just be somebody. But to somebody, you just might be the world. ~Unknown

Small School – Big Opportunities

When searching for college’s a lot of people think that they have to go to a “big” school with a big name to get any real opportunities. This is not true. In fact, I would even suggest that it is the opposite.

I would say it’s better to be a big fish in a small pond than it is to be a small fish in a big pond. Being in a small pond or at a small college allows you to shine and be recognized. Being in a big pond or large college can lead to you getting lost in the shuffle and it can be hard to shine.

At Albion the faculty and staff really get to know who you are and what you want out of life. They really want to see you succeed and they want to do everything they can to make your dreams a reality. I don’t know where I would be today without the support of my advisors and mentors at Albion College.

I am a member of the Carl A. Gerstacker Institute for Business and Management. Being in the institute requires at least one internship during your four years at Albion. Because of the enormous networking and connections that Albion and Gerstacker offer I have been able to have three internship opportunities, a semester off-campus in Philadelphia, and much needed support while job searching for after graduation.

Philadelphia Skyline

Valassis Interns - Summer 2013

Without these opportunities I would not have near the amount of work experience to add to my resume and I would not have the life lessons that have helped me discover what it is that I want to do in my future. I have found that at a small school like Albion there are big opportunities. So before you completely cross small schools off your college search – I would strongly suggest visiting one!

839 Pages

During my time at Albion College, I’ve written 839 pages worth of papers. This number takes into account the (on average) 4 classes I took during each of my 6 semesters at Albion, in addition to my (now-completed) 55 page thesis. This number does not include essays written for exams or group projects.

That seems like a lot of paper writing, but when compared to my entire undergraduate career, it’s actually not. Those 839 pages account for 12,585 minutes (or 209.75 hours) over the past three years that I’ve spent writing papers. Of the 967,680 minutes (or 16,128 hours) I’ve spent at Albion College, less than 1.3% of that time has been spent writing papers. (If you take out sleeping hours, that number only increases to 1.7%.)

Comparing that to the time spent in a seat in a physical classroom during my time at Albion is kind of crazy. I averaged 16 hours a week in class, or 1,536 hours over the course of my Albion career (92,160 minutes). This amounts to just 9.5% of the total time I spent at college. (If you take out sleeping hours, that number only increases to 12.7%.)

So what do all of these numbers mean? The Albion experience really isn’t about the classroom at all, since over 85% of the things I learned at college were learned outside of the classroom/homework.

Sorority Life at Albion

The members of Pi Chapter of Kappa Alpha Theta

When I first came to Albion College in the Fall of 2010 I remember saying that I would never be the “sorority girl” type. No one in my family had ever been Greek so my only views of fraternities and sororities were from media and the movies which led to many stereotypes. I thought that sorority girls were ditzy, not serious about life, and party animals.

Spring semester of your first year is when you are first allowed to go through Formal Recruitment (other schools might call this rushing). I was not interested. But then my freshman roommate convinced me to at least try it so that she didn’t have to go through recruitment alone. So I said I would try it but I still did not expect to actually join a house.

Recruitment consists of one weekend – Friday night you meet all six sororities and mingle with the girls in each house. Saturday night you go to three or four houses based on a preference system. Then on Sunday you go to two houses and the final decision is made as to what house you are going to join.

After meeting all of the women in the sororities it became apparent to me that (at least at Albion) the stereotypes did not exist. These women were intelligent, kind, and fun to be around. I especially liked the sorority, Kappa Alpha Theta. I felt like I “fit in” there and really liked everything they stood for. At the end of the weekend I ended up getting a bid and signing it to become a member of Kappa Alpha Theta. It was one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life.

Because of joining I have gained over 50 friends that would do anything for me, leadership opportunities, and networking opportunities. I have had a blast participating in things like Mock Rock, Greek Week, Anchorsplash, PowderPuff Football, and so much more.

So if you are the person saying that you will never be a sorority girl like I was – rethink it and try it out. I know that my Albion experience would not be the same without Kappa Alpha Theta and its members.

The Albion Advantage: A Senior Perspective

When I came to Albion in 2011, I wasn’t really sure what “the Albion Advantage” was. As defined by the school, it is “a comprehensive strategy designed to help you succeed in your studies, in your career, and in your life. It’s our commitment to your future,” but how did that manifest itself in what I was going to do in the classroom, on campus, and in my internships?

As I’ve gone through Albion’s category and mode requirements as well as my specific major coursework throughout my time at the school, I’ve discovered what exactly this “Albion Advantage” is. It’s the ability to major in marketing (as I did) but bring elements of geology, accounting, and theatre to the table (as I now can do). It’s the opportunity to major in biology but still play football, even though both of those activities are incredibly time consuming. It’s the experience of being a three-sport athlete, a double major, and still have the time to study abroad. Albion has allowed my classmates and I to do all of these things.

When I interviewed at Whirlpool in the fall, seeking a full time position after graduation, it was the experiences I had at Albion that weighed equally against the degree I was going to have earned prior to entering the workforce. While Whirlpool appreciated that my coursework within my specific major would provide me the specific foundation for my day-to-day tasks within the company, it was also the work for a manufacturing company I did junior year, the experiences I had in the sciences during my first year of college, and my finalist standing in the International Science and Engineering Fair in 2010 that sold them on me as a job candidate. To them, it wasn’t enough to just be a marketing major to get a job in their Brand Management department. I also needed to have a foundation in manufacturing and science, since they are the world leader in manufacturing large and small appliances for the home.

In the end, it was this “Albion Advantage” that I learned about before coming to Albion and fully experienced and benefited from during my time here that actually landed me my post-grad job.

 

An Albion College Education = Leadership

Last week I was asked why is my education at Albion College valuable. Unlike some folks that attend college, I knew my answer right away.

My education here prepared me for leadership — not only for my community, but the world. You see, ever since I was a first-year student, I questioned the quest to obtain a degree, and wondered what it actually means on a larger scale in life. Why is going to college so important, and what will I really gain from this experience?

But the biggest question that struck my brain was WHY AM I HERE AT ALBION? Out of all of the colleges across the country, why did Albion feel like home?

As a senior looking back, I can tell you that I have learned a lot. I’m not talking about your typically class rooms lectures, but the real world experiences that are explained in the class rooms. Volunteering in the community, joining a cultural organization to bring awareness to important issues within our society, and even mentoring kids that took me back to my younger days. Through these experiences, and many more, I learned how to be open-minded and have empathy, two greatest skills that every leader should embody from my perspective.

And as a result I am now a part of an even larger organization, Teach For America.

Thank you Albion!

 

What you don’t learn in college

A few weeks ago, my friends and I were looking back at our experiences at Albion and trying to figure out what we didn’t learn. Whether those lessons were academic or life lessons didn’t matter, they were just things that were important for us to know. We pared that list down to a top 5 list of lessons that I’m sharing with you today.

  1. Learn how to advocate for yourself. In college, there is a lot of talk about humility, not bragging about yourself, and not being too cocky. There’s workshops specifically for learning to walk the line between confidence and cockiness. However, when it comes to getting a job after graduation, college students have to dance that line. If you have amazing skills or impressive credentials, don’t hesitate to share them with an employer – just do so in a way that’s respectful. You are your own best advocate.
  2. It’s not about the degree. There has been a lot of talk in the media about whether some humanities degrees are useless or what the most lucrative science degree is. Honestly? These arguments don’t really prove too much. Getting a job isn’t necessarily about the degree you got or what your major was – it’s about you. The degree may give you a list of 32 credit hours that you need to complete to graduate, but it’s still up to you to figure out how to capitalize on the skills you learn and how to use your degree to increase productivity for your employer. After all, that’s what they’ll be paying you for.
  3. Your degree doesn’t dictate your future. If there’s anything I’ve learned being a part of the various programs at Albion that encourage giving, its that alumni rarely go into exactly the career that their degree dictates they should have. I’ve talked to English majors that are now controllers for manufacturing companies, Psychology majors that are now major marketing executives, and biology majors that own major companies. None of those are “logical” career jumps but all three of those individuals are incredibly successful regardless.
  4. The Politics of Advancement. Advancement at work is as much about interpersonal skills as it is about job skills.
  5. Procrastinating is a really bad idea. In college, all nighters to finish papers are commonplace and the result was a little bit of drowsiness. At work, if you put off a project until the last minute and then you’re sick or something else gets in the way, you risk your professional reputation—and you could even get fired.

How To Have the Worst Last Weeks of the Semester

Want to make this home stretch of the semester absolutely great? Then do the exact opposite of this list (especially seniors).

1. Never go to La Casa again.
2. Avoid of your friends at all costs—especially the ones you haven’t seen in a while.
3. Completely abandon all sense of academic responsibility so you’re extra stressed for finals!
4. When the weather gets warm and it’s a beautifully sunny day, dodge the opportunity of canoeing on the Kalamazoo River.
5. Never go to your professor’s office hours just to chat or thank them for being awesome.
6. Don’t have nostalgic moments with your friends about the good old days of being underclassmen.
7. If you are of legal drinking age, definitely don’t try the beer called Scotty Karate at Dark Horse Brewing Company.
8. Steer clear of any athletic events that get you pumped up about school spirit.
9. Certainly don’t stop to talk to a staff member from grounds keeping, facilities, Baldwin cafeteria, etc. because you probably won’t meet anyone with an interesting story.
10. If anything, never pause while waking across the Quad or laughing with your friends to remember how truly wonderful Albion College is.

Thesis Work

The no-makeup look

As we near April 1st, it is crunch time for those of us seniors working on our Honors Theses. Mine in particular is titled “The Implications of Body Modifications on the Hiring Process”. Over a year of research and over three years of personal experience has lead to this thesis, focused primarily on the struggles that those of us with tattoos, piercings, or even wildly colored hair face when going through the job search process.

Most seniors will tell you that their thesis has been a lot of work. I’d agree with that, but I’d also tell you that my thesis has been incredibly eye opening and inspiring as well. I entered my thesis with a mindset similar to that I’m sure all of us seniors working on theses this year share. I believed that what I had set out to prove would be true and that my thesis would be a cakewalk, just a bunch of proving myself right. However, I’ve found that I was only half right. The research adventure has been fun, interviewing sources, conducting studies, and even doing a summary of all of the cases ever brought to court on my particular topic.

The title page.

As the deadline approached, my committee and I had a goal of being completed by this past Wednesday, March 26th. As a result, I spent the week prior to that holed up in the library during any free time I had, working to finish up the pretty large document I’d been writing. I’ve forgone makeup and my lunches at home in an effort to put as much well-thought out writing into my thesis as possible. As you can imagine, when I turned in my thesis to my committee, I sighed a breath of relief as perhaps the largest paper I’ve ever written was finished.

I still have a lot of work to do – revisions, final signatures, and my presentation for Elkin Isaac – but I can definitely say one thing. Though it is rare for a bachelor candidate to have to write a thesis, I am certainly glad I chose to do so as it has been one of the most powerful learning lessons of my collegiate experience.

Winter in Albion

Man oh man. This winter on campus has been a blistering one! Reaching lows of -20ºF and accumulating approximately 4.5 feet of snow in my front lawn, the snow has hit Albion hard.

Perhaps the craziest day this winter was when I got stuck in my driveway when I was trying to go to class. No, I don’t normally drive to class, but when I’m headed to work right afterwards, it’s more convenient. After being stuck and trying to get out for 15 minutes to no avail, a van of Albion College Facilities workers drove by and saw me stuck. They stopped to give me a hand. Another gentleman stopped to help too, I never caught his name. After about another 20 minutes of serious digging, cat litter gymnastics, and heavy pushing, my car broke free and I was on my merry way. A serious thanks to ACF for their help!

Beyond just the snow though, this winter has taught me another lesson. I can remember a day during the winter of my freshman year where I walked barefoot from Vulgamore to Wesley through the snow. Why I did this, I can’t remember. I also vividly remember refusing to wear a coat for fashion’s sake.

This year? I don’t care about looks. I’m often walking to class in a wool pea coat, leather gloves, classic wool hat with the pom on top, scarf, and boots. This is on top of whatever outfit I’ve chosen for the day, of course. I can definitely say that I’ve been a much happier camper this winter while walking to class.

Here’s to it being almost spring in beautiful Albion!

Photo Cred: Dave Lawrence

Black Student Alliance: Taste of Blackness

Albion College’s Black Student Alliance (BSA) went out with a BLAST celebrating this years’ Black History Month. To concluded our ceremonies, we hosted our annual event, Taste of Blackness, with the theme “Motown: Our Past is our Present.”

 

 

A Splash of Service

Delta Gamma members at Anchor Splash 2013

For the past three years, my month of February has revolved around one event: Delta Gamma Anchor Splash, my sorority’s annual philanthropy event. When I first joined DG, I had no clue why the campus erupted with excitement and chaos for weeks leading up to a synchronized swimming event. Now, as a senior, it remains to be my single most favorite day of the school year. As entertaining and albeit time-consuming the preparation for the event is, knowing that we are raising money towards Service For Sight, Delta Gamma’s philanthropy organization, is reassurance that it is time and energy more than well spent.

My parents have instilled in me the desire to serve others for my whole life—a quality in which I am grateful they have always encouraged me to practice. From working at my local church, at Habitat For Humanity, and other various charities back home, volunteering has always been a deep-seeded passion of mine. When I came to Albion College as a freshman, I was eager to see what community service opportunities there were on campus. When I joined Greek life, I was amazed at how dedicated to service every chapter was. With every event a sorority or fraternity puts on to raise money and awareness for their respective philanthropy, everyone on campus has the opportunity to get involved in serving others.

Now that my passion for community service has only grown throughout my four years of college, I’m only more motivated to attain a career in the non-profit organization world. Some people are geniuses at physics; some people are destined be neurosurgeons. While I may not be good at math and science, I am good at caring about people. That cliché statement about finding your passion first and then you’ll find a coinciding career is true. I feel that it’s safe to say I never would have thought that a synchronized swimming competition would inspire me to continue in my pursuit of a dream job of helping others!

See photos from this year’s event >>

#dontcare

This week, along with the masses of other unfortunate and unhealthy people on campus, I got sick…again.

In general, I’m a fairly sickly person. Really though, I’m sick an irregular amount of time. I was just ill last week and then this week another germ infestation invaded my sinuses. So, I spent all of Monday snoring away in my bed until at about 5pm when I decided soup might be a good idea. Thus, I grabbed my roommate and headed to Baldwin right in the middle of the dinner rush…in my winter onesie.

Yes, I own a onesie. Yes, it is fantastic. No, sadly it doesn’t have a butt flap (but it does have penguins on the feet).

Moral of the story: As a senior, I could literally not care less about anything, especially social norms in the cafeteria. My friends and I laughed so hard watching the horrified faces of the sweet underclassmen who were confused and embarrassed for me.

Traditions

One of the most valuable things that I have gained in my 4 years in college is undoubtedly my relationships and my friendships. I could type for days about how important it is to spend as much time as possible bonding and making memories with the people who are important to you (because before you know it graduation will be looming around the corner, and you will realize that the people you have taken for granted for so long are about to head off in their own directions and you will be lucky if they even send you Christmas cards or call you up every once in a while). Okay, enough of my pathetic senior ranting. What I am trying to say is that time with friends is absolutely essential.

Yet, we all get busy. We have homework, jobs, theses, and sleeping that all needs to somehow be crammed into the limited hours of each week. Thus, something I have found helpful is marking out time every week that you know you will spend with the people who are most vital to your sanity. Whether it’s lunch every Wednesday at noon or brunch on Saturday mornings, it’s a good idea to set time aside.

One of my favorite traditions this semester has been with one of my best friends, Lesley, on Friday nights. Normally, when the end of the week comes around I just want to crash into my pillows and pass out until Sunday afternoon but this is a bad idea. So recently Lesley and I have spent every Friday just relaxing and unwinding from the week – but doing it together. We go to Baldwin, get ice cream, then watch a movie and paint our nails. Sure, it’s super girly but oh well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The traditions with her and with my other friends are the highlights of my week, every week. They make the endless amount of readings and papers seem less daunting while also ensuring that I have a healthy amount of social interaction and human communication.

Take it from a senior who knows – there is no other time in your life when you will have relationships like these and there is no excuse to not milk them for everything that they are worth!