College Fair season is nearly upon us! Don’t underestimate the potential of a college fair to change the trajectory of your life! The first one I suggest you attend is coming soon to a metropolitan area near you: Colleges That Change Lives. This organization is a not-for-profit consortium of colleges that was created in 1998. Normally, you would attend a college fair to meet with and speak to representatives from some particular colleges. That is not my advice here. Instead, I say…Don’t Go for the Colleges…instead…
Be there on time for the presentation by Maria Furtado, Executive Director of the CTCL organization. Listen to what she has to say about how college should and can prepare you for life. Listen to how her mission, and the mission of all these CTCL colleges, is to help you shape, help you create your full life experience. I believe you will gain a valuable perspective that will help you not only in your college search but in your college decisions. This is no high drama, just information. It’s not a sales pitch–it is a part of your research on colleges.
Change Your Perspective
One of the factors where Ms. Furtado’s presentation may help you is rankings. This is not her favorite way of measuring colleges. She emphasizes that it is only a tool, and only one tool of many in your toolbox. If all criteria were exactly the same and in the same order, then the college search would be easy! That would be good. But this is not so. This rankings system is an imperfect tool; it does not rank the universal factors. Your life preparation is not the same as, say, a toaster. You are not toast.
Change Your System of Measurement
So how do you measure? It’s stressful! As a junior, nearly overnight, you’re supposed to know what you want! You look for the tangible: What’s my major, what’s my career, what is my college. Instead, consider this question: What do you enjoy learning? You will learn through that enjoyment. Do you want to be challenged, but not just intellectually. Do you want to be in an environment where everyone thinks the same? Do you want to be among learners who think differently? Do you want to be a diverse learner or just mainstream?
Change Your Search
What do you want from the college’s combination of support and challenge? These 44 colleges have many things in common and many differences, but one lesser-known factor that I find particularly interesting is that they take risks in their admissions process. By that I mean that they will accept students whose standard measures (you know them: SAT/ACT scores and GPA, as well as activities) are not viewed as competitive (at least not as much as those “highly ranked colleges”). However, at these colleges, students leave as much “stronger” students as when they started. They are deliberately and incredibly well prepared for their careers. These are where Fullbright scholars come out of the colleges where they may have entered as B+ students! That’s development, don’t you agree?
These are the questions that you’ll begin to answer: How to define and explore your major, how to use a major to develop your career, how to learn to think, how to learn to problem solve.
Researching colleges requires much more than reading the website admissions page. Let’s take one factor, diversity, for example. How do you define that? What kind of diversity are you seeking? Academic diversity? Seeing the world in a way that you have not experienced before. Poke around the website, look at student organizations, religious and political clubs. Look at the surrounding community. Does it connect to the campus? How do the students use their space…urban, outside, concrete and skyscrapers or trees and hills?
Begin to Change Your Life
Juniors and sophomores too! It’s time to get these college fairs on your calendar! Seniors, you may feel like you’re done exploring colleges, but even so, college fairs have a purpose to you now. Sophomores, it won’t hurt you to get a jump on your college search and show up for a college fair or two. I suggest you start yet this summer with the CTCL College Fair in your area.