Hi, my name is Jasmine McLean and I am a junior at the University of Saint Joseph in West Hartford, Connecticut and I am currently pursuing my BSW (Bachelor’s of Social Work) with minors in sociology, psychology, and hopefully history if I am able to fit it in!
The summer between my junior and senior year of high school my mother introduced me to what was then known as, Saint Joseph College, a small liberal arts college with approximately 1,200 students and 7 residence halls at the time (now 6). Being the typical teen, I immediately shot the school down and dismissed it completely and told myself that I was going to go to a big name brand school like Ole Miss or UCONN. I decided that I was going to enjoy the college scene and attend lots of parties because in my mind, that’s what the average college student did! Entering into my senior year of high school, I realized that none of the big “name brand” schools appealed to me when I was visiting them. This came as a shock to me because it was obvious in all the movies and shows on televisions that everyone had a blast at the big schools and in my teenage mind, obviously, you were not a real college student if you didn’t party four nights a week and skip all your classes without any thought of tests, assignments let alone midterms.
However, when I was looking at all these name brand colleges, there wasn’t anything in particular that stood out to me. Sure, the schools had nice campuses, great football teams, super involved Greek life, and lots of cute people that roamed the halls of the dorms in last night’s clothes but what about the education? What about the faculty that I would be spending four years of my life with on a daily basis and had complete control over my grades? Or my advisor who would literally hold in her hands, the power to determine if I was spending four or five or even seven years getting a degree that I was paying thousands of dollars a month for? Or what about the types of people that attended the college? I mean, why would anyone want to do a group project worth 40% of your final grade when there was a great party happening on the other side of campus that you need to walk over two miles to get too? Or what about the quality of the education I would be receiving? So what if a school ranks on the top five on the “best party schools list”, does it really matter if their graduates consistently score in the lowest percentile on the GRE or LSAT? Or what about the administration, would they know who I am when I come to them with issues or would they just see me as a number in their computer system with a price tag? Would I be Student ID Number 00000001 instead of Jasmine McLean, the college student who has a love for Rihanna and walnut fudge brownies?
It was with these hesitations that the idea of going to a name-brand college started to become a little less appealing and the idea of going to a smaller school stood out to me. That isn’t to say that every big name brand college or university is only about the money that a student is paying for their tuition and not about the person that they are. Nor does that mean that these name brand schools only have students who don’t value their education and only want to party every night. But when someone is looking at colleges, they need to look a little deeper than the big flashing lights and the neon signs. Look towards the student body as you will be with them for the next four years, the faulty that are going to be teaching you, because they are the sole deciders of your grade and whether or not that 7 page midterm is being extended or not. Look past the social environment of the college because no matter where you go, as cliché as it sounds, you’ll have a blast with the right people. But you can’t supplement the personal feeling or the quality of the education you are getting. So pick a small school if it speaks to you, don’t just go with one with a fancy name. I picked a small school and I honestly think it was the best decision I could have made!