As any parent of a college-bound high school senior knows, May 1 is the decision and deposit due date for most college admission acceptances. After visiting 14 different colleges, writing more than a dozen common application, supplement and scholarship essays, and participating in 3 accepted student programs #1 Son’s final decision is UMass Amherst - the very first college we looked at when we began this process 18 months ago in August of 2010.
In case you are wondering why UMass Amherst? In the beginning of his search, #1 Son was strongly focused on small liberal arts schools that offered highly interactive classes. In fact, many of the schools he visited and applied to were only slightly larger than his high school. He ended up applying to 7 colleges, most of them small. He included UMass Amherst mostly due to the fact that it’s 2012-13 tuition, room and board charges are less than half those of most private institutions. For those who haven’t priced college lately, many private institutions have a list price of about $55,000 for tuition, room and board for those students who don’t qualify for need-based financial aid. Even out of state charges at state colleges can total close to $40,000 or more.
We were pleased when he was accepted everywhere he applied and was granted several partial merit aid awards. We were pretty sure he was headed to one of those small private liberal arts schools, until it came time for accepted student revisit days – including some overnights in the dorms. What he discovered was that, to him, these schools felt a bit confining.
When it came time to revisit UMass Amherst, he was energized by the wide and diverse range of people and activities available on campus. He found he preferred the rural ambiance of the Pioneer Valley and Amherst – one of America’s prettiest and most active college towns – to more urban options. He made an immediate connection with the economics faculty as he discovered that the department’s focus is well aligned with his own. He concluded that big or small, intro level classes are frequently taught lecture style and there were other opportunities to get to know the professors if you are willing to make the effort. Perhpas most importantly, he felt mature enough to step up to learn how to navigate the big school bureaucracy and be proactive about seeking out both academic and social connections. The price tag, and the opportunity to exit college with zero student debt, didn’t hurt either but it was only one of a number of factors.
As May 1st arrives, we want to congratulate all the teens and parents who have undertaken this journey over the last year or two. We want to thank all our readers who have shared #1 Son’s college exploration process. Along the way he matured from a teen to a young adult. We hope you enjoyed the journey as much as we did!
Photos courtesy Wikimedia