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Are You Ready to Answer the Question?

Are You Ready to Answer the Question?

This student gives his first-hand account in trying to answer where his college search will take him.

By Jeremy Ogul

January 09, 2007

“Where are you applying?” This is a question I have to answer multiple times a week. Both of my parents ask once a week or so, and usually some friend’s parent asks me at some point in the week. And of course I’m asking myself the same question numerous times a day at this point. I get so frustrated when people ask me, because I’m so unsure, but nevertheless I have to give them something. Now we’re pretty much at the point where I don’t get to be so wishy-washy anymore. Here’s a list of colleges I’m seriously considering applying to.

University of California, Los Angeles and Berkeley are at the top of the list because they’re two of the best public universities in the U.S. (or the world), and they’re both right here in California for an in-state price. Unfortunately for me and the vast majority of students applying to college, they are both reach schools. If I did get into one of them, I’m pretty sure I’d pick that school over any of the others that I apply to. I don’t mind stadium-size classes my first two years if it means having the resources, prestige and outstanding faculty of one of these schools. And I don’t think they’re all stadium-size, right? The natural question when I put these two on the list together is “What if you get into both?” Well, I think I’d have to cross that bridge when I get there. It would be influenced somewhat by financial aid, but I’d probably go for Berkeley. It’s slightly better and I prefer the Northern California peace to the frantic materialism of Los Angeles. Like I said, though, I’d take either.

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My third reach school is Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. Most people think of medical research and education when they hear the name, and Johns Hopkins is famed for its med school, but they have an outstanding undergraduate university as well. Because they are near Washington, DC, their programs in political science and international relations – which I am looking at studying – are top notch, and having that location really enhances those programs. The opportunities for internships and eventually jobs in the DC area are incredible. And the Georgian architectural style in which much of the school is built … how can you go wrong with that? Hopkins will be a lot of money, but I’m trying not to think about that right now.

The reaches are fun to think about, but I can’t get too attached to them because chances are I won’t get in. At the top of my match list is University of California, Davis. Davis is the classic college town, and one of the few left in California. It sits about 60 miles east of San Francisco and 10 miles north of Sacramento, the state capital. UC Davis isn’t a “name” school (unless you want to go into animal medicine), and I didn’t really know anything about it before I visited. I was pleasantly surprised with how nice the school was and how expansive its undergraduate educational offerings were. All of the UC schools are high-quality schools, and I think I would have a really good experience in Davis. I like its proximity to the two cities mentioned above. San Francisco will fulfill any cultural and social requirements I have and Sacramento will provide that government connection.

Also on the match list is the University of Oregon, which is located in Portland. UO is best known for its athletic prowess, especially in running. I like this school because of its relative proximity – it’s still on the West Coast. I like Oregon and have some relatives who live there. I’ll be applying to the Clark Honors College, which is essentially a small liberal arts college within the university. From what I understand it’s a small, supportive and challenging environment. The University of Arizona, located in Tuscon, has a similar honors program that was recently featured in Time Magazine. Both the U of A and UO are big state universities but have the honors programs for their best students.

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I’ll also be applying to American University in Washington, DC. I first learned about the school after someone told me that their application was free, and after more research, this school really interests me. They have really strong government and political science programs, and it’s a lot closer to DC than Hopkins. It’s also not as competitive; I think I have a pretty good chance of getting in. The disadvantages are that as a private college the annual bill will be really high, and also, it’s far from home.

So that’s it – UC Berkeley, UCLA, Hopkins, UC Davis, Univ. of Oregon, U of A, and American. Now it’s time to write the essay (ugh!) and fill out applications … and pay the application fees.


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