As I am sure I have heavily implied lately, I’ve been researching schools to transfer to. Just looking at their websites wasn’t enough. I could love different schools and jot down notes about them, but in looking over my compiled data, I found that comparable schools felt drastically different to me–all because of the mood I was in when looking at them.
So much for being subjective.
I decided I needed an objective way to analyze each school. I thought about this for a while and then devised an elaborate grading rubric like those that certain English teachers might use in college courses. It was broken up into three areas: basic information about the school, information about their academics, and their extracurricular offerings.
However, even though this method has allowed me to practically cut in half the list of schools that I was looking at, I need to do more. I need to eliminate more, to be precise. I feel like I need to give greater consideration to my criteria to better ensure that how I’m grading them will really give me a good idea about where I’d like to be. And maybe, along the way, if people know of schools that are worth looking at, they can recommend them. After all, even though I’m trying to make my list smaller, it’s stupid to ignore a good contender.
And since I haven’t said it explicitly yet, I intend this to be the first of three posts, wherein each will address one area of my grading rubric. It might seem a bit much, but trust me, it’ll be worth it.
I feel like I need to do things in considering how to narrow down my schools further. First, I need to pay more attention to what I feel physically about the schools–do they excite me, do they make me shudder, do they make me feel comfortable. Too often I live in the mind, but living is a full-bodied sensation, and I need to remember that. Next I need to trust my intuition more while looking at schools. Yes, logic is wondrous, but a logical life is lacking in many ways it should not be. Lastly, I need to trust in myself and have the courage to be completely honest with myself in identifying those areas I’m truly passionate about and those that I’ve become passionate about by absorbing into myself the interests and intentions of those around me.
I have eight points that I’ve used to judge each school’s basic information.
The first is obviously tuition, but even though it’s the first, it’s the last I’m considering. I want to find schools I would love to go to and then find out which of those I can afford. To go about it any other way just seems foolish to me. Why make my top choice an exceptionally inexpensive school if I’m not going to love being there?
Granted, the cheaper, the more points they’ve scored, from a maximum of four points for the range of nothing to $15,000 annually (including books and living expenses as projected by CollegeFish.org), and losing one point for every tier upwards in fifteen-thousand dollar increments. Needless to say, most schools only get one or two points, with an occasion instate school getting three.
The next area–or rather, the next three–concern location. First is the actual city where the school is located, with bonuses for certain cities I’m connected to (such as Greensboro, where my NC life is centered, or Chicago, where my boyfriend will probably be living when I transfer). At most, schools can get three points here. It seems fair, although I almost feel having three categories all with location in mind is a downfall…
The next two can award at most five points and they’re a measure of driving time from where I currently live in NC and from Chicago to the school. I love being close to home, and I’d want to be able to come \visit within a reasonable timeframe no matter where I am. But this is where I feel uncertain. Am I giving away too many points on account of travel time, when with today’s technology distance is but a good internet connection away? My stomach gets a sinking feeling when I look at a good school falling so many points behind, only because their distance from home is so low. If otherwise they’re a great school, I feel like that should only be a small point to consider.
Following this are two related areas: Diversity and inclusiveness. GTCC is an incredibly diverse and incredibly inclusive school, and I like this multicultural and culturally open learning environment. Diversity here specifically refers to the demographics of the schools, especially their ethnic make-up, which is the data I can most easily chart as it’s provided through CollegeFish. Right now I’m giving three points if the percentage of white students (the majority) is less than seventy percent, which (in my way of thinking) ensures a good representation of other minorities on campus. Yet part of me says that this whole category is somewhat trivial. Even if everyone’s skin is a different color, it doesn’t ensure diversity, and since diversity speaks volumes about where we come from and our personal perspectives, even if everyone looks they same, the diversity scale could be off the charts.
I want a diverse student body wherever I take up the rest of my studies. But how can I accurately judge something that is so hard to measure and quantify?
By inclusiveness, I’m looking specifically if the school has a welcoming environment for Jews and LGBT people. So I look for diversity initiatives or equality statements or offices of LGBT or Jewish students, yet thinking rationally, GTCC has barely any of these, and yet I wouldn’t be upset if my next school were no more diverse or inclusive than this. It would mean a lot if a school has a Jewish center or an LGBT center, but is it worth awarding eight points just if they have both, when right now I have neither?
The penultimate criterion is the graduation rate. I know a graduation rate doesn’t necessarily say much about how good the school is (most community college graduation rates are less than fifty, sometimes less than forty percent, but that doesn’t mean their education is any less valuable), but I feel if I’m going away from home for the next two or three years to finish my degree, I want to know the school I’m going to is committed to ensuring as many of its students graduate as possible. Schools can receive up to four points for this category, and they get none if their graduation rate is less than sixty percent. This almost seems too lenient.
Last is school colors, but because they’re only aesthetics, I don’t give out points for this category. I’m actually somewhat amused by how many schools I’ve looked at have either red, white, or blue as one of their school colors. By far, though, the best two combinations I’ve seen are blue and orange (a longtime favorite coupling, at UI Urbana-Champaign) and maroon and orange (a more relaxing and yet equally as energetic scheme belonging to Virginia Tech). Like I said though, colors don’t mean much, and I won’t avoid a school just because their colors clash with mine.
So of all these things, I feel like I’m putting too much weight on things that are barely consequential. Location? I’m definitely handing out too much there. And inclusiveness and diversity? I’m just questioning how accurately I can measure them. Maybe I need to contact my top schools and speak directly with some students to get their feedback on the makeup of their student bodies. Yes, I will definitely do that, but first, there’s still two more areas of consideration for me to reconsider in this future-shaping trilogy of colleges and universities.