Students Should Look Beyond the Name of a College


College pennants in the Miramonte Career Center remind students of the many universities out there.

Julia Govan, Opinion Editor

As seniors look to next year and begin to weigh their college options, and as more and more college decisions come rolling in, the questions of finance and debt loom over parents and students alike.

In the Lamorinda community, the name of the university can be a huge deciding factor in a student’s further education after high school. Unfortunately, the name or the brand that the school has created can often take precedence over the compatibility and cost of their education. A high school student would be best served by researching prospective schools without giving any clout to the name.

When choosing a school that best meets a student’s needs, he first should try to be realistic about his chances of actually getting into the schools he plans on applying to.  It can be a huge waste of time and money to chase after only  “Dream Schools,” where he may have less than a one percent chance of acceptance, and put only a few on that short list. In this competitive arena, students need to throw their nets out wider than ever before and seriously consider the smaller, lesser known schools that can provide just as well rounded an education as any Ivy League school.

This is when the question of compatibility needs to be seriously weighed, putting aside, at least temporarily, the name or brand of the school.  A prospective college student should have some understanding of what best meets her needs, taking into consideration the majors offered, the size and location, how strong the Greek system is if that’s important, and whether or not the school offers extracurricular activities she can take part in and enjoy.

Another factor can be whether or not the student wants to study close to or far from home. Understanding what happens to the campus during the weekends can be a key determining factor. The student could decide to study far from their home, hoping to create long-lasting friendships with those from other states, and then see their dorm empty out over the weekend as many of their fellow dorm mates travel to a local home. The best chance at happiness in the freshman year of college, and later, comes with taking a hard look at what makes that person comfortable and happy.

It was once universally believed that attending a public university, is less expensive than receiving a private school education. However, recently, a startling trend may prove otherwise. A recent article on by Anna Schumann cited that “on average, students who attended public universities graduated with more debt.” And according to College Board, 91 percent of incoming freshmen with need at Amherst College, a smaller private school, receive financial aid, whereas only 67 percent of freshmen with need receive aid at public University of Massachusetts. These statistics may in fact point towards the financial benefits a private smaller sized university can offer.

In our current economic crisis, saving even a few thousand dollars makes a difference. Student debt is now the second largest category of household debt and 17 percent of all student loan borrowers are 90 or more days behind their payments.

Taking these facts in to consideration, it may be wiser for students in the Lamorinda area to really consider what will make them happy in their college years. It is best to put aside the name of the school and instead focus on both the financial benefits and compatibility aspects.