Must You Choose Only Brand Name Colleges?
Every spring parents and students go down to the wire, trying to select schools from those that have offered admission, and quite possibly those that have a waiting list. The very good student, as opposed to the best of the best, has an interesting choice. Go to any one of a number of brand name colleges such as a flagship state university or one that is lesser known in the media that might have offered a generous scholarship.
The quality of education a student will get in the classroom does not depend on the brand, but on the efforts made by the school and the students.
Very good and excellent students help any school maintain high retention and graduation rates. But the best performing public schools do “something extra” to help their students succeed. It might be a first-year seminar, experiential learning, accessible advisors or some other practice that helps guide them to graduation.
Imagine a college-bound student in Pennsylvania who wants to stay in-state. S/he can get into Penn State-University Park, a fine state university as well as a brand name college. However, if s/he falls in the middle of the applicant pool, around a 3.6 GPA and 1300 SATs, it is almost impossible for this student to qualify for merit-based aid. That same student might also qualify for admission to some very good liberal arts colleges including Allegheny, Juniata and Ursinus. S/he might qualify for enough merit aid to narrow the gap between the costs of the public and private schools.
Penn State is certainly better known across the country than Allegheny, Juniata and Ursinus. It has more living alumni than practically any state school in America. Regardless of wherever they live, Penn State graduates will be able to run into enough of their kin to be able to organize a watch party. The brand builds bonds and connections with strangers as well as friends. But Penn State students may pay more for it.
Branding has little to do with learning in the classroom.
Suppose that student is interested in biology. At Penn State s/he will sit in large lecture classes during freshman and sophomore year and take multiple choice tests. Labs will be in large rooms as well and led by teaching assistants. For those who can learn without the help of a professor, this is fine. They’ll get through the class. But it’s fair to ask how much biology they will actually learn. Not everyone can learn this way. Those people might be happier, and have a better chance to earn a biology degree, at the smaller liberal arts college.
Get the answers to these questions to help you choose right school.
- Will we receive the aid we need to stay here?
- How have the faculty and administration done at guiding students to graduation?
- Are the alumni enthusiastic enough to be an effective network?
The lesser known schools may have better answers to these questions than the brand name colleges.
Don’t worry too much about a name. Choose the school that will work hardest in your student’s best interest. If its the one with the large alumni base and the football team, then Mazol Tov, and put the sticker on the rear window. If it is not, buy the sticker for the right school anyway. Show everyone you made the right choice.
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Listen to my talk, College Is A Learning AND Living Community, hosted by Dr. Cynthia Colon from Destination YOUniversity on Voice of America Radio!
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