Decisions, decisions

By Jordan McSpadden

During my last month in Spain, I looked forward to summer 2010, believing it would be a time to relax and adjust to being back in America. Little did I know, my summer would be filled with college research, the Common Application, and visiting 17 different colleges on the east coast.

Most of my classmates had seen many college campuses and knew quite a bit about their favorite colleges. Most students I talked to couldn’t imagine not having taken a spring college tour. I hadn’t seen one American college campus yet. Was I impossibly far behind in the process?

I started researching colleges that I thought I might like to visit. By the end of July, I had a list of 17 colleges I wanted to visit. My parents and little brother agreed to accompany me to the East Coast where most of the colleges were located. We decided 10 days would be sufficient enough to see all the colleges.

After visiting no more than three colleges, it dawned on me that each college was tremendously different.

I realized off the bat that I would never want to attend some schools, while other schools I instantly loved. In addition, each school had different traditions, varying from “Heavy Petting Day” at Brown (all of the faculty members bring their pets to the main lawn so that students can have a day to relax and play with their animals) to “Mountain Day” at Mount Holyoke (one day out of nowhere, the president decides to cancel classes and invites the students to climb Mount Holyoke).

Seeing the colleges allowed me to eliminate a big chunk of my list. After visiting all these campuses, I knew I wanted to apply to small, secluded colleges. Bard is an example of the type of school I loved. It is located in Annandale-on-Hudson and Rhinebeck is a small town that is a couple of miles away. Some of my first choices became my last choices due to their locations and student body. While some of the campuses were beautiful, the surrounding areas were not. I arrived to one school and looked around for a while.

The campus was wonderful, but when my family and I left the college, we drove into a terrible neighborhood right next to it that changed my mind. At another college, my parents and I did a quick drive through of the campus before we went on the tour. The campus was horrible so I didn’t bother going on the tour, knowing that I would never apply.

It was equally important for my family to see these schools because I want them to see where I possibly will be spending the next four years of my life. Now that I know what colleges I want to apply to, I feel much more prepared as I begin my senior year.