College Choices: What Matters To Schreiber Students?

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Rachel Cho, Ana Espinoza, Rachel Kogan, Managing Editor, Editor in Chief, Copy Editor

When students start looking into college, they create lists of qualities that characterize their dream schools. Having made these lists, high school students must inevitably make further choices in deciding upon the university that is both a good fit for them and within their means.
A topic of debate in making these choices is the value of public, in-state universities. For Schreiber students, there are pros and cons to State University of New York (SUNY) and City University of New York (CUNY) schools.
The primary benefit of going to a state-funded university is the affordable tuition. The application process is also easier, compared to some private schools. There is no writing supplement needed to apply to a SUNY or a CUNY. Also, for most Schreiber students, admission to public schools is easier to attain.
“I would probably go to a public university, because it has a much more affordable tuition compared to private schools,” said senior Samuel Kang. “And since there is a very dynamic and diverse atmosphere at most state schools, they allow for students to learn outside of their classrooms.”
Other students also feel that public schools are more diverse.
“I prefer going to a public university because I think you will be able to meet more people with a more diverse background,” said junior Dani Cohen.
Some potential cons of going to public schools are large student bodies, which mean that a student might have a harder time finding one-on-one interactions with professors. Most SUNY and CUNY schools also have, on average, large class sizes.
“Personally I think that private schools are better,” said science department chair Mr. Philip Crivelli. “I went to one and my daughters went to them, so I have a bias, but I think me and my daughter got more personal attention since the classes, labs, and even the lecture halls are smaller. The professors also seems to know you better, and you are not just a number.”
Even so, most private schools have long application processes, since most ask for at least one writing supplement, in addition to the already lengthy Common App essay. Also, perhaps most importantly, private schools have, on average, frighteningly high sticker prices.
Some students expressed their thoughts on this matter.
“Certain details would affect my decision but I think I would choose a public school over a private one, if it was in-state because of price,” said senior Sally Kuan. “In other cases I would probably choose to attend a private university because the size is generally smaller, so it’s easier to get to know your professors and classes are more personal.”
Others pay special attention to academics, which are often more rigorous and more enriching at privately funded institutions.
Students are split in choosing between these types of institutions; in a poll, 52 percent of Schreiber students favored private universities, while 48 percent of students favored public universities.
The choice between public and private schools is ultimately second to choices between individual schools.
“I think it depends on the academic level of the school, because some public schools are better than other private schools,” said senior Haley Sambursky.
Students are also faced with a decision that is, in some regards, more personal: that between a liberal arts college and a research university. With immediate academic pressures and outside influences pulling teenagers every which way, many students find it difficult to decide what type of education they prefer. Even though many students may have heard of the difference between liberal arts and research institutions, there is a percentage of the student population unaware of the difference.
Education.com outlines the distinction. According to the site, a liberal arts college focuses primarily on undergraduate education. The majority of liberal arts students focus on majors associated with the liberal arts such as the social sciences, arts, humanities, and sciences. Despite the emphasis on education at the undergraduate level, there are some liberal arts colleges that contain a graduate school at the master’s level.
Liberal arts schools tend to be smaller in size in comparison to research universities. Class size generally follows the same trend. Due to this smaller size, liberal arts colleges have been known to promote a greater sense of community and familiarity among students, as well as promote educational curiosity. Additionally, faculty members, especially professors, are often more accessible in liberal arts colleges than in research universities as their primary focus is to aid and educate undergraduates, not graduate students. At most liberal arts colleges, professors personally teach classes.
Research universities have a greater focus on graduate-level education. A research university’s prestige is determined not only by its selectivity, but also by the number of doctoral degrees (PhDs) it awards its graduates. Thus, education is primarily focused on career building. However, research universities do place a great emphasis on public service and as can be inferred by the named emphasis on research.
Professors at these universities invest the majority of their time and energy into furthering their research and sharing it with the scientific community. By working with the professors, students will receive the benefit of conducting high-level investigations that are often at the forefront of their field.
Research universities have a tendency to be larger than liberal arts colleges. This reality can prove to be beneficial as larger universities often have a greater variety of majors and activities available to students. However, larger class size may also mean anonymity and greater difficulty reaching professors. Since the professors spend the majority of their time researching, post-doctorate teaching assistants generally teach classes.
With a focus on graduate school and career building, research universities offer a greater networking system that may benefit students seeking work or internships while in college or immediately after graduating.
During the college application process, many students are forced to identify their preference. This confusion leads to varied opinions regarding which type of institution fits each certain type of student.
Some students believe that liberal arts colleges provide a better education for students who are unsure of their future career yet sincerely desire to continue learning.
“Liberal arts tend to have fewer majors, which can be an issue if you don’t know what you want to do with your life,” said senior Ariel Waldman. “That’s one good thing about research universities, they tend to have more majors, which is better for the lot of us with varied interests and those who don’t know what they want to do.”
Other students believe that liberal arts colleges are most beneficial for students without a set major in mind.
“I think both liberal arts colleges and research universities offer equally exciting opportunities for their students,” said senior Wyn Stopford. “A student who has less of an idea what they would like to do for a career might be better suited for a liberal arts college. However, a research university gives students who are ready to commit to this area an extra level of focused insight and experience.”
Despite their differences, many students are in agreement regarding college being dependent of individual student’s inclination. They believe that there is no overall “better” type of college with respect to education.
“It solely depends on personal preference,” said Stopford. “What fits one student will not necessarily fit the other.”
“Overall, I think that picking a college is really dependent on the person,” said Waldman. “I have friends applying to both and I think both can give you a great education, as long as you pick the right school for you, no matter research or liberal arts.”
Schreiber’s guidance counselors work to ease student stress during the college decision-making process. During their junior year, students are provided with a survey that includes geographic, school size, and school type preferences. From the information obtained from the survey, the guidance counselors create a list of colleges that they believe would most and best match the student’s needs.
“It really depends on the students’ experience in high school,” said guidance counselor Ms. Nori Cerny. “If a student participated in research at the school, or on their own, or if they are leaning towards a specific profession or field, then a research university is probably best for them. But I am a more liberal arts kind of guidance counselor. I believe that all students should take a diverse selection of classes because you might take a class that just happens to change your life. You never know.”
The numbers were close on this decision as well; 51 percent favored small schools, and 49 percent favored large schools.
Another concerning issue for students and columnists alike is the value of the prestigious colleges. Many students move through their high school careers and make decisions in order to eventually gain admittance to a college or university with a good U.S. News & World Report ranking. These much-discussed rankings and similar lists often factor into college decision-making processes. In an in-school poll, 62 percent of polled students thought prestige should be important in making college decisions.
The most prestigious colleges have the distinction of helping their graduates succeed in their fields. According to Forbes, 30 on their list of the “World’s 100 Most Powerful Women” attended Ivy League institutions. These schools also have huge endowments, and, consequently, more educational resources and heftier financial aid packages available for undergraduates. Many students are able to attend high-ranked institutions for the price of attending an in-state public school. A prestigious education is valuable, whether or not it should be.
“I think that prestige/ranking is important in choosing a college because the selectivity of a college is significant, but should also be considered with other factors, like cost and location,” said senior Ilana Zweig.
Many argue that these institutions remain bastions of prestige. Not only are they difficult to get into, but these schools also continue to grant preferred admission to legacy students, and are less socioeconomically diverse than state schools.
“I think, while rankings should be taken into account in some capacity—higher ranked colleges tend to have better professors/opportunities often due to greater financial endowments—it should by no means be the only or even perhaps a heavy factor,” said senior Crystal Ren. “Undergrad will only be four years or so. It’s important, but it won’t define you. You have to look at college as a package. Fit is very important: weather, workload, people. Will you be happy there? That’s the question.”
Many students ignore a school’s ranking, whether high or low, and rely heavily on personal fit.
“Well I think that even if a school has great ranking, it all depends on you,” said senior Sam Kang. “Because Harvard is just a name, and you have to keep in mind whether or not you will be happy.”
Underclassmen agree.
“On one hand, going to a school that has a high prestige will give you an advantage when seeking employment,” said sophomore Maria Kogan. “Also, often times schools that are ranked very high do provide an excellent education. But on the other hand there are many colleges that are not as popular providing an equally well-rounded education, for half the cost. It really depends on the way you look at it.”
Even so, in the aforementioned poll, a notable 62 percent of Schreiber students thought prestige was important for the college decision-making process.
On average, Schreiber students seem to prefer large research universities, moderately prestigious universities, and state schools. Since 2010, 1,725 graduating students have gone on to college, according to Naviance. Out of the 279 schools those students attended, the most popular was Nassau Community College, followed by SUNY Binghamton University and Cornell University. There are no liberal arts college in the top ten, but liberal arts colleges also have smaller enrollments. Five out of the top thirteen most popular schools were in U.S. News & World Report’s top 50 national universities.
Despite this fairly pointed data, most students profess that individual preference is the most important factor in the college-decision making process.
“Sometimes it seems like the college process becomes somewhat materialistic,” said senior Sandra Riano. “The college you attend does not reflect who you are; what you do at any given college you attend reflects who you are. It is your achievements and capabilities that make a college great and you can do that just about anywhere.”