Seniors determine prospective colleges based on interests

Seniors determine prospective colleges based on interests

By Haley Madigan
Page Designer

Waking up just before the alarm blares is always an accomplishment. For seniors, confirming attendance to that perfect school proves to be an even greater relief. And with only four months left until they depart for fall classes, the college clock is ticking.

The painfully slow time period from application to acceptance has been deemed top priority for most seniors. Valedictorian Haley Beck can attest to the anxiety of waiting, especially with the pressures of living up to her title.

“The wait was a lot longer than expected,” Beck said. “Every day I get asked where I’m going, and I just found out [where she has been accepted].”

Beck is not alone; the majority of top colleges recently sent out acceptance letters, posing many students with a pivotal choice. Several essential factors play into the college decision-making process, including location, cost and opportunities available.

“The overall fit academically, demographically, socially and financially is all important,” Coppell High School counselor Mindy McMinn said. “It is up to each student to prioritize according to his or her personal educational goals.”

With so many elements to take into account, individuals must narrow down the most important aspects of college life to them. Beck is thoroughly considering an Ivy League, either the University of Pennsylvania or Princeton University, as a potential match, mainly because of the prospects such schools present.

“The [Ivy League] schools offer a lot of undergraduate research opportunities, and the smaller classes are a big benefit,” Beck said. “At the University of Pennsylvania, I was accepted into a dual degree program, which would allow me to earn a B.A. in Biology from the College of Arts & Sciences in addition to a B.S. in Economics from Wharton.”

Another viable option for Beck, Duke University, has provided her with a full academic scholarship, in addition to an offer to be involved in an exclusive program. The program is centered on genomic science, but also combines the opportunity to study social policy based on ethics, philosophy and law.

“What sets Duke apart form the other colleges I’m considering is the opportunity to be part of a small program and its Institute for Genome Sciences & Policy,” Beck said. “Through a small program like the Angier B. Duke scholarship program, I would have access to additional research grants and the chance to build close relationships with the faculty advisors and upperclassmen in the program.

Certain benefits, like small class sizes or strong programs in their potential majors, tempt students into making that dream school a reality. Senior Alexis Meyer, who recently confirmed her acceptance and attendance to Texas State University, weighed her chief priorities before deciding.

“I am an advertising major and Texas State has a great advertising and marketing program,” Meyer said. “They have a competitive team that travels all over the nation participating in marketing competitions.”

Although academics usually take precedence, location also poses as a concern. Heading off for college can be intimidating because it presents an overwhelming independencemany seniors have never experienced. For Meyer, the difference between an in-state and out-of-state education served as a critical role in her decision.

“I wanted to be somewhere away from home, but not too far,” Meyer said. “I wanted to be able to drive home if I needed to for the weekend. I looked at some schools out of state, but they are harder to come home from and I wanted to be able to do more.”

Meyer, like many seniors, considers the physical and emotional distance from Coppell to be significant in her choice to attend Texas State. But location also impacts families financially. In addition to the high costs of out-of-state tuition and minimal financial aid opportunities, transportation at great distances can quickly become expensive.

“I was admitted to schools outside of Texas, but I have pretty much ruled them out,” senior Bruno Chiquini said. “With out-of-state tuition, that’s more. Plus, you have to consider plane tickets for the holidays and bringing stuff like clothes and other items. It all costs more money.”

If time is money, many seniors know the pressures of paying for college can really take a toll on their futures. Chiquini knows that although he may be qualified to attend certain schools, the financial aspect might not be feasible.

Chiquini, who also must incorporate into his decision the cost of education for his twin brother Patrizio, keeps a realistic mindset when it comes to paying for college.

“There are a lot of families in Coppell where money is not a big issue,” Bruno said. “But there are instances where the cost is the big factor that decides whether you go or not. In my family, with one parent and two tuitions, that’s a lot.”

Although he was admitted to big Texas schools like the University of Texas at Austin and A&M, Bruno views taking two years at community college as a smart alternative to save some money.

Since the first two years at most colleges are spent taking required general education courses, the material does not differ much from school to school. After the standard class requirements are fulfilled, students often transfer to larger schools to finish their degrees.

“Junior college is a really smart option: you save money on classes and housing is a bonus because you can live at home rather than on campus,” Bruno said. “It also gives you a chance to go to college and work at the same time. There are fewer distractions.”

From a counselor’s point of view, the best advice regarding paying for college is to know your status.

“Be aware of your family’s financial situation,” McMinn said. “Initially, it’s good to apply to schools you’re interested in even if they seem too expensive. Work hard to determine scholarship and financial aid opportunity because ultimately that is one of the top factors.”

McMinn provides a perspective in the college decision-making process not only as a counselor, but also as a mother of three.

“My main focus was wanting it to be their decision and not mine,” McMinn said, “Because as a parent it is very easy to impose one’s own opinions, but my daughter is the only one who is going to actually be walking that path, so it needs to be her decision.”

There is no time like the present for seniors to narrow down their options to make that decision. Committing to the perfect match may seem like a daunting process, but ultimately students will make the best of whichever school they attend.

“It’s not about where you start; it’s about where you finish,” Bruno said.