COMMENTARY: Thinking like a student

College is one of the most complex processes any student and parent will have to endeavor for one’s education. As someone who has been through the process and experienced its difficulties firsthand, it is of no doubt that finding a college that suits someone personally and fits the needs required to a single person is essential to not only one’s education, but their future job opportunities as well.

Something I noticed among my peers as this process continued was the desire for specific aspects of a college that seem somewhat untraditional or irrational at first, however I asked professionals about some of these choices and voiced the questions of many students who have been or are going through the college application process in order to help students and their parents better understand how this whole thing works.

First, I conducted a survey to get a better estimate of how many students find themselves in the same predicaments or scenarios as other students. One question that was asked on the survey conducted at Polytech High School asked students what factors helped them determine the college they chose.

Torie Seagraves

Fifty-nine percent of students surveyed said that tuition was one of the major reasons they chose the college they did, and of that amount, 57 percent will still need to apply for student loans.

In-state tuition will always seemingly be cheaper. Common in-state scholarships offered in Delaware consist of the SEED program, the INSPIRE program, and the Associate in Arts Program. Despite the benefits of in-state tuition, students still desire the out-of-state experience.

“I encourage my students to go out of state if they can, meet new people, go out in different environments, learn new things, and be exposed to new cultures,” Polytech High School counselor Aaron Kellam said.

Will students consider these choices that provide them with a broader experience or stay in a familiar environment to take advantage of a decreased cost of education? In my survey, about 75 percent of students found the location of their college to be a determining factor in their decision-making process. However, taking into consideration that over three-quarters of those students will have to work during their college career, it is safe to say that the vast majority of students who use “location” as a determining factor are looking to go out of state out of their own preference.

One traditional factor that seemed less popular was a student’s choice to attend a school based on their athletics. Only 17 percent of students found importance in a school’s sports or sports record. The majority of students also said that their intended major was an important reason for choosing an institution. Given this information, one may predict that this majority of students is set on a major and certain on what career they plan to pursue.

Polytech Superintendent Dr. Deborah Zych explains how attending a technical school is most likely beneficial for the college process so students may easily narrow down their options with their desired major.

“The need for career and technical education is growing. Not only do students here have the whole academic scope of high school requirements, plus advanced placement courses as well as dual enrollment courses where they earn college credit, but when you look at the career and technical ed side of the house they earn 11 1/2 credits in a concentrated program of study, which culminates in student certification, job placement, shadowing and eventually apprenticeship placement,” she said.

All are reasons that directly influence students to be set on a career path prior to their college education, saving them time and money.

Another stressful aspect of this process is preparing for the SATs and ACTs that are continuously used as key indicators for a student’s potential to a college. Although, as SAT and ACT scores become “unessential” to indicate on college applications, is the ongoing rumor true about the diminishing of the SAT and possibly the ACT? I asked Dr. Zych about this educational phenomenon.

“I don’t think they’re becoming less valuable because more and more states are using the SAT as their accountability test. So there’s a lot of pressure on school districts to provide SAT prep, to focus on the types of questioning, and the rigors of the SAT,” she said.

It is also a concern to students whether the school they choose to attend matters in comparison to the degree that is obtained. Students are concerned with the relentless question of whether a degree is better if it is obtained at a more prestigious school or if a degree at one school is still the same at another.

“I have never gone to a job interview and anyone ask me where my specific school was and how that made an impact on me getting hired or not hired,” Mr. Kellam said.

As students lack the knowledge of where to begin when facing this extensive process, some beneficial sources are collegeboard.com or commonapp.org.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Torie Seagraves is a senior broadcast media student at Polytech High School who will be graduating tonight. 

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