Choosing the right university or college can be a very daunting prospect. When it came time for me to decide where I wanted to go for my undergraduate degree I was overwhelmed with the options I was confronted with. Should I stay in the UK where I had been for the last 5 years or should I try something new and apply for US universities? If I do go to the US should I look more at the East Coast so I could be closer to my sister or should I look more at the West Coast so I would finally have the sunshine I was so desperately missing?
After my very structured boarding school schedule with the more restrictive A-Level curriculum, I was looking for the opportunity to explore topics outside my major and my scope. I had chosen to study Chemistry, Biology and Maths as I had hoped to pursue either psychology or natural science for my undergraduate degree, but the more I reflected on this decision the more I welcomed the opportunity to try something new.
I did extensive research into different universities in the US and the UK and decided a smaller school in the US with a more holistic approach to education would suit my learning style better. I knew I would struggle in a bigger classroom with more lecture style classes and I also knew I wanted a very distinct campus as I didn’t really like city living at the time.
My research and deliberation led me to focus on liberal arts colleges as opposed to bigger national universities and I wanted to focus more on the West Coast as I believed I would suit the weather and culture more than the East Coast. With all of that in mind I eventually decided to apply to Claremont McKenna College where I studied Psychology.
While the classes and professors within the Psychology department were all fantastic, studying at a liberal arts college gave me the opportunity to explore other subjects and classes unrelated to my chosen major. I had never really understood the value of studying philosophy until I completed my philosophy requirement by taking Moral and Political Issues. I learned about Hobbes and Aristotle and, as cliche as it was, discussed the trolley problem and talked about how morality was actually subjective rather than objective. I really appreciated the way the professor pushed us all to think outside the box and how he constantly played devil’s advocate to make us second guess our stances and encouraged us to see this from a different perspective. I enjoyed these debates so much I signed up for another philosophy course where we read popular novels like The Rules of Attraction and Blood Meridian instead of dry philosophy texts and applied different philosophical principles when discussing the actions and motivations of fictional characters.
Another class that surprised me was Introduction to Film. I had signed up for this course with two of my friends thinking it would be easy. This was a seminar style class meaning we only met once a week and instead of the traditional readings we would have to watch various films instead. My friends and I were convinced that we had hit the jackpot and could coast to an easy grade. I ended up writing more for this class than any other class I’ve taken and while I found Citizen Kane super boring, the other films we studied like Pulp Fiction and Invasion of the Body Snatchers were much less painful to watch. It was fascinating to critique a film through the lens of a critic and to pay attention to things like framing and mise-en-scene rather than how many explosions there were on the screen at a time.
I took many other fantastic classes with incredible professors but a major reason Claremont McKenna College was such a fantastic fit for me was the school culture and student population.
My peers at CMC were from all over the world and they consistently pushed me to think about challenges and issues in interesting and diverse ways while being friendly, supportive and fun. Being in such a small school ensured I was on a first name basis with my entire year which meant I always had a few friends to study with no matter what class I was in and I could always find a good group of friends at every party and social event hosted by the school. The school also did a fantastic job of maintaining the school/life balance of all students as they constantly hosted everything from parties to painting workshops every week to ensure there were activities for everyone. They even had a puppy petting zoo available for students every exam week to ensure students had a healthy way to cope with the stress.
My time at CMC is filled with incredible memories and experiences, both academically and socially, and a large part of my successful transition from high school to college has to be attributed to the research I did to ensure I found the right school and right fit for myself. This process for finding the right school for each student can be daunting but when done properly makes a huge difference when selecting where you go and who you surround yourself with for the next milestone of your life.
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By Brendan Lung, Admissions Consultant