My younger sister, Grace, got her first college acceptance letter yesterday. (Sorry, she isn’t applying to UPS – I did try, but apparently being a younger sibling makes her disinclined to follow me to college.) This is a bit weird for me, because she just turned seventeen, and I swear I was seventeen just last year or something, despite our four-year age gap. But besides that, it’s weird because I’ve been hearing all about how awful college applications are, and despite my misperception of my age, college apps feel like a long time ago. The Common App? You mean that one website with all the forms and tabs and things?
Grace has two older siblings from whom to learn, and thus appears to be far more on top of things than I remember feeling as a senior in high school. Except for one thing: she doesn’t have a “type” of college. Small liberal arts school? She’s applying to one of those. Varying sizes of state school? Yep. Big private schools? Got those, too. The only consistent thing is that all of the schools are in places of extreme cold – with the exception of UC Santa Barbara, which our mom made her add to counteract the preponderance of upstate New York and Michigan-types of places.
I was talking to my cousin over Thanksgiving, and the subject of “if you go back and tell your younger self anything, what would it be?” came up. This particular cousin is my age, went to college for a year, hated it, dropped out, and is now working as a pretty well-paid computer programmer. But he said that he would tell his younger self to go to college. Maybe a different college than the one he briefly attended – one with a bit more of a small, liberal-arts-type of feel than last time, with its 35,000-strong student body – but college nevertheless. And not only to go to college, but also to study something that isn’t computer programming; he said he’s noticed that, career-wise, it’s generally a lot better to have multiple areas of expertise. (Interdisciplinarity! Who knew, right?)
The type of school can clearly make a pretty big difference in your success in college. Unless you’re Grace, who can apparently do anything, like apply to a random mix of schools and take six AP classes this year and intern for a congressman and still have me edit her college essays. (I’m going to continue making fun of her for as long as I can, because of my impending battle with College Apps Round Two: Grad School Edition.)