I was told I had nearly everything it takes to get into the most prestigious colleges in the country—4.0 GPA, AP and other college-level classes, a plethora of awards, National Honor Society distinctions, and a bunch of extracurricular activities. When it came time to look at colleges, all my friends asked me what Ivy League schools I’d be considering. However, I didn’t apply to a single school with a big name, nor did I ever consider it. Most people looked at me like I was crazy. My guidance counselor tried to pressure me into applying to some bigger-named schools. But to me, the name on the door isn’t everything.

I go to a tiny public high school (less than 70 kids in my graduating class small). Being in the honors track, all of my classes are small, and I am connected with my teachers. I love being in an environment where all my teachers knew not only my name but also who I am on a more personal level. They know my interests, strengths, and weaknesses, and I knew I wanted the same thing in college. The Ivy and other top nationally ranked schools tend to have more students, and more than likely, I knew I would have a bunch of huge classes. I couldn’t imagine myself sitting in a lecture hall, and if I went to one of these schools, I knew that’s what I’d be getting.

The other benefit from knowing all my teachers is I can get help whenever I need it. Even though I get good grades, I still have my weaker points. All of my teachers make themselves so available to help, and since they know what my learning style os, I always feel comfortable going to get extra help. Some of my teachers even give extra credit if you come in for help when you need it, or allow for test corrections. My school is all about the learning process, and never solely about grades. I recently found out from one of my friends, who wants to go to an Ivy, that some of the most prestigious schools participate in grade deflation. Although it sounds surprising, it essentially means that the schools are more concerned with their own name and image rather than their own students’ success, which is not a surprise.

Finally, I knew I wanted to go to college to learn and improve myself as a person. I wanted to go somewhere where I’d be able to learn, grow, and not just be stressed all the time. After some research, I decided I wanted to go to a smaller liberal arts school. In this kind of environment, I’d be able to study a little bit in a variety of subjects, with a concentration in whatever I am most interested in, and small classes.

An Ivy League education isn’t for me, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not for everyone. Everyone has different learning styles and different desired outcomes for their college experience. And though many people get caught up on the name of a school and don’t realize that they might not be getting what they truly want or need, it doesn’t have to be that way. My best advice is to research the schools you are interested in and make sure you know what you really want from your college experience. Your college education is entirely up to you, and don’t feel pressured into going somewhere where you don’t think you’ll be getting exactly what you want.


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