Choosing the right school

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Discus: College Search and Selection: August 2004 Archive: Choosing the right school
By Emswim (Emswim) on Monday, August 02, 2004 - 05:11 pm: Edit

I'm about to start my junior year of high school, and I'm both excited and nervous about the college search process. I'd like to attend a selective school, though not necessarily an Ivy. It's very important to me that the school be a good match for me, not just carry a prestigious name. I do want a very challenging school, though, since it seems I've spent all my life in environments where I'm not really pushed, no matter how hard my classes supposedly are. Here is some info about me.
PSAT: 215 sophomore
4.0 GPA unweighted, with all honors and AP courses.
I have taken AP Bio and AP world history sophomore year and got 5's on both. I will take 5 AP's junior year and 5 again senior year.
My passion outside of academics is swimming. I've been swimming competitively since I was 12, and I practice 20+ hours per week and compete on the state level. I am planning on majoring in something science related. Sorry this is so long. I'd really like to get everyone's input on some schools I should consider, and how I can improve my chances at highly selective schools. Thanks in advance for any advice!

By Alexandre (Alexandre) on Monday, August 02, 2004 - 05:15 pm: Edit

What do you want to major in Emma? And do you want to compete in Division I swimming?

By Emswim (Emswim) on Monday, August 02, 2004 - 05:20 pm: Edit

I really want to swim in college. I don't know if I'll be good enough to swim Division 1, but I'm still rapidly improving. I'm interested in biomedical engineering, pharmacy, and possibly later medical school.

By A2a2 (A2a2) on Monday, August 02, 2004 - 05:31 pm: Edit

Would be helpful to know a little more about you, what you think you might like in a college/university. Large? Small? Location? Political climate?
Your swimming will obviously help you, even if you're not D-1 material. You can probably get into any LAC you want and many of the ivies. We've got 4 neighbors who went to Princeton - all of them all-state athletes (good students, but not val or sal by any means).

By Emswim (Emswim) on Monday, August 02, 2004 - 05:40 pm: Edit

Thanks for the replies. I'd like to attend a larger school, though not necessarily huge. I think I'd like to attend a private school, though I'm not ruling out all public schools by any means. I've lived in Southern Indiana all my life and I think it would be interesting to live in a different part of the country. I'm a pretty conservative person, but also I'm open-minded, so political climate isn't a huge issue for me.

By Emswim (Emswim) on Monday, August 02, 2004 - 05:42 pm: Edit

By the way, what's an LAC?

By Bettina (Bettina) on Monday, August 02, 2004 - 05:49 pm: Edit

I don't think you should be selecting schools just now. I think instead that you should be learning about all kinds of schools so you will be informed when you get nearer to selection time (in a year). Look at some of the guide books and college websites. Learn what an LAC is and what they are all about, etc. Learn about the locations and sizes of the colleges and the benefits of each.

By Emswim (Emswim) on Monday, August 02, 2004 - 06:19 pm: Edit

Thanks for the replies. I'd never heard the LAC abbreviation before. I have researched a lot of colleges and so on, it's just that there are so many great schools out there that are strong in the sciences. Our mailbox is inundated with mail from colleges. My parents really want me to narrow my search down to 10 schools or less pretty soon, and they want to start visiting schools. Am I starting this process too soon? It's not that I want to pick THE school this year. I just want to create a list of 8-12 schools, including safeties, matches, and reaches.

By Dadofsam (Dadofsam) on Thursday, August 05, 2004 - 05:28 pm: Edit

Emswim: Your TOP priority this year is to maintain that fine GPA and do well on the AP exams. Colleges look heavily on junior year peformance.

Second priority is to bolster that GPA with SAT or ACT scores, so use your time to study for them.

Once you're set on that path, around Christmastime at the earliest is a good time to start thinking seriously about the type of school you may want to attend - large, medium size or small? In or near a major city or in a college town or in a rural environment? Fairly close to home or not?

It's great to make some changes from your current situation,but you may want to keep some familiar aspects of your surroundings too.

You also should think about the amount of money that can be made available for your education, and discuss that with your parents.

Look to visit schools starting the spring if you can, and expect that once you start the process your answers to all these questions may change. Keep posting on these boards as you go.
Best of luck

By Collegeparent (Collegeparent) on Friday, August 06, 2004 - 11:47 am: Edit

Two of the top college swimming programs are right next door to you in Ohio: Denison and Kenyon. Definitely check them out.

By Alexandre (Alexandre) on Friday, August 06, 2004 - 12:26 pm: Edit

I take it your major is more important to you than swimming. At any rate, there are several schools that are good at both swimming and Bioengineering.

Duke (top 5 in Bioengineering, premed and medicine)

Johns Hopkins (#1 in Bioengineering, pre-med and medicine)

Michigan-Ann Arbor (top 10 in Bioengineering, premed and medicine and top 5 in Pharmacy)

Penn (top 5 in Bionengineering, pre-med and medicine)

UCSD (top 5 in Bioengineering,

Washington-Seattle (top 10 in Bioengineering and medicine. Decent pre-med track)


Other schools that are good in swimming and Eingeering are Texas-Austin, Stanford and Cal-Berkeley. However, I don't think those schools have good programs in Bioengineering.

That's a good starting point. I am sure there are more schools to look at though.

By Newnudad (Newnudad) on Friday, August 06, 2004 - 12:27 pm: Edit

Emma - Take a look at Northwestern - based on your grades and what you said you are looking for, it would appear to be a good match for you. Beautiful campus, very selective, and a Div 1 Swim Program.

IMHO, it's never too early to start looking and filtering colleges... Just got done, and my Daughter will start NU this fall.

Good Luck!

By Cangel (Cangel) on Friday, August 06, 2004 - 12:34 pm: Edit

I pretty much agree with Dadsofam, except I would take your parents up on their interest, and begin this fall to look at 1-3 schools. Make them as different in size and location (urban vs small town/rural) as you can.

Talk to your parents about college - are they urging your on because of financial concerns, because they want you to swim in college(ie scholarship), because they think you could go to a highly selective(Ivylike) college, OR, are they, like I was, just realizing that with your busy schedule, it will take every spare weekend/weekday between now and Dec senior year to work in a reasonable number of visits!

Finally, if it all possible, talk to some student athletes now in college, part in your sport. At my daughter's high school, the state #1 male and #1 female platform divers just graduated in 04. The girl went to a Div 1 school, instate, with a prestigious, competitive aquatics program, I do not know her or family well. The guy, i do know, he looked at the same Div 1 school, was recruited for a spot, but decided that he didn't want that large a school, he wanted to dive, but did not want it to consume his life, that there were no Olympics or NCAA champs in his future, and that he wanted to be competitive, but still have fun. He also wanted a more academically challenging school. He's going Div 3, a small LAC. He will be diving, he got some merit money, the coach works extensively with the local kids swim/dive teams so he got this young man a job coaching young children(he's been doing that for a couple of summers). There are other ways to go.

Good luck to you.

By Reidmc (Reidmc) on Friday, August 06, 2004 - 01:40 pm: Edit

Emswim -- You don't need to have a list of 8-12 schools right now, but you should do some additional thinking about school location, size, social environment and other things that might be important to you. Great time to look through a few books on individual schools (Fiske Guide; Princeton Review Best 3XX colleges)and do a longer list that can be cut down as you think more about this and visit schools.

One good idea for the early spring would be to visit some schools that have a variety of characteristics: large urban university with Div I swimming; small, rural LAC with Div III swimming etc. You'd be visiting not so much to zero in on those schools, but to begin to sort out the questions you have about college in general and get a feel for some different environments. That will help you decide where you want to visit next.

As for Division I swimming, you will need both competitive times (check the Championship results on the NCAA website) and a willingness to make a major time committment. Div III is often the choice of good athletes who want to focus on academics, but not leave competitive swimming behind.

Most Division III schools are small liberal arts schools or state colleges. Based on your comments above, I would definitely consider (but not necessarily focus on) a small group of very challenging, medium-sized universities that have Division III swimming programs. These schools would include Washington Univesity in St. Louis, Emory, Johns Hopkins, Tufts and a couple others. If your times are good enough, a coach at one of these schools can help you get in. Your coach, or coaches that you meet at regional meets can help you do some networking.

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