A First-Year Student’s Advice for Choosing a College

by Allyce Yang | Apr 18, 2017

College Decision Day is coming up, and if you’re feeling stressed or confused, you’re definitely not alone. Just a year ago, I was practically pulling my hair out trying to decide between Minerva, two Ivy League universities, or forgoing college to pursue a career as a freelance writer. If you’re not sure whether you should enroll at Minerva, or another school — or whether to enroll at all — here are some thoughts that really helped me make the choice that was right for me.

Imagine Your Life After You’ve Earned a College Degree

This may seem scary to think about right now, especially when you’re still deciding where you’ll be this fall. But if you take a step back and think about what you would like to accomplish after college, it might help you figure out what exactly each college can offer you. Around this time last year, I was dreaming of adventure, cultural exploration, personal growth, and intellectual stimulation — all of which pointed me away from traditional universities and toward Minerva.

Reflect on Your Previous Educational Experiences

Now that you’re about to open a new chapter in your life, look back on your educational history. How does the idea of college make you feel? Excited, scared, impatient, overwhelmed, emotional? Personally, after 12 years in traditional American public education, I was fed up with learning just for high test scores and grades. Although I had been accepted to some reputable traditional universities, like UPenn and Columbia, Minerva’s innovative curriculum made me feel an excitement for learning — and life — that I hadn’t felt in a long time.

Consider How Much Academic Flexibility You Want

You may have applied to certain schools because of a specific degree program, or a department’s reputation. But once at university, you may discover that you hate what you once loved, or a subject you’ve always been bad at could become your true passion. Do yourself a service now, and consider how much you would like to explore different and diverse topics at university, and how much academic freedom each of your options will give you. After poring through the curricula and majors at all the universities I was admitted to, I realized that Minerva would give me the most interdisciplinary and intellectually stimulating education, especially since I can design my own final projects, tutorials, and capstone project.

Remember that No College can 100% Guarantee your Future Success

Many people, including my family, urged me to pick UPenn or Columbia over Minerva because they thought the reputation guaranteed me a successful career. But I don’t buy that, and neither should you. Look beyond U.S. News rankings and international prestige, and consider which university will provide you with the most opportunities to learn, live life to its fullest, and pursue your desired career. If you’ve been admitted to Minerva, you’re certainly creative, talented, and hard-working enough to make it anywhere in the world, regardless of what you decide to do with the next four years of your life. Even though Minerva doesn’t have the centuries of history that Columbia does, we’re definitely not short on opportunities for talented, driven students. In fact, even though I’m just finishing my first year, I have become a freelance marketer and helped found an education technology consultancy, through connections I made at Minerva.

Take some time alone to reflect, journal, contemplate, and dream about how you hope to spend these next four years. It’s been about a year since I decided to enroll at Minerva, and I can tell you that the education, inspiration, opportunities, personal growth, and friendships that I’ve experienced here have made every single agonizing moment of the decision process worth it. In the end, I can’t make your decision for you, but I can tell you that I have never regretted mine.