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How do you figure out a college's personality?

Social media, student posts, college search sources give you a glimpse into a collegeís personality, telling you if itís conservative, hipster, liberal, athletic, artistic, driven, laid-back, or fun loving.
BY BrainGain Magazine Staff Writer |   27-05-2019

BrainGain Magazine

“Tell me something would you be comfortable trooping deep into the most Trumpian hinterlands to study in a college in the Midwest,” the educational consultant asked my son.

He smiled widely and said, “I am a city kid. I don’t think a conservative college is a good personality fit for me.”

Clearly, colleges and universities have defined “personalities” like we do: conservative, hipster, ultra-liberal, athletic, artistic, driven, laid-back, sociable, fun loving — you get the picture.

“Whether a school is small or large, residential or commuter, teaching or research heavy, undergraduate or graduate, and diverse or homogeneous can make a big difference,” writes Dr Robert J Massa, senior VP for enrollment and institutional planning, at Drew University in “CollegeXpress.”

The concept of "opposites attract" has been batted around for centuries so it is not surprising that many students dream of attending the type of college opposite from their personality. Many gravitate towards attending schools that are opposite from their hometowns, only to discover once they get there that the amount of change is extremely overwhelming.

Some students, however, crave that and thrive on a new and different lifestyle. It all depends on one’s personality, adaptability and reactions. That’s why it’s important to think through your decision and how you may react before you make your choice.

Here are a few tips to help you figure out a college’s personality and settle on whether it’s a good fit for you:

  • Talk to current and former students
    This is your best bet. Try to speak to as many current or former students at each school as you possibly can to get the most insight into the school. Ask about the courses, the professors, campus life and extracurricular activities. They may be loyal to their schools but encourage them to be candid and honest with their answers.

    Ignore the rankings
  • You should never rely exclusively on one college search resource, particularly “shortcuts” such as best-of rankings. The Princeton Review’s annual list of top party schools has been a highly anticipated (or highly dreaded list) for college administrators across the nation since 1993. While many students rush to submit their applications to the schools that party, others are turned off at the mere mention of the college party scene.

    For instance, Tulane University became the top party school in 2018, bumping UW-Madison to number five. But keep in mind that Tulane has a lot to offer other than a great party scene. The class sizes are small, with the largest being the chemistry and biology classes. Due to the smaller class sizes and the ability to have in-depth conversations, you can build a relationship with your professors and classmates which can be very beneficial. Tulane students are spoiled by free giveaways doled out on campus which include tastes of Jambalaya and crawfish consistent with New Orleans culture. Jazz music often pervades the well-kept central quad.

  • Use many different college search sources
    Mix it up and conduct your college search using a variety of websites. CollegeXpress, College Board, College View, Princeton Review and Unigo all offer search tools worth exploring. Unigo, which matches students with colleges, scholarships, internships, student loans, majors’ boats one of the largest libraries of college reviews on the Internet. For instance, it has dozens of students weighing in on Wesleyan University and describing it variously as an “ultra-liberal, sport-hating, weed-smoking, diversity university where everyone is brilliant.” All these sites give you a flavor of the school and help you discover its personality.

  • Talk to your counselors and teachers 
    Some school counselors can help you develop a list of possible colleges that fit your interests, style, and academic profile.

  • Use the college’s website
    You must start with a university’s institutional website and drill down. “Learn what the English faculty are doing in their classes and what students in Public Policy do for final projects. Learn about extracurricular organizations and alumni accomplishments,” says Dr Massa. “Get to know the school on its own terms.” 

  • Use social media in your college search
    Open up your Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages, because it’s time to connect with the schools you’re considering. You must use social media for energetic sleuthing. Follow events on campus and what students and prospective students are saying about the college, its programs, and its people.

    A school’s profile will give you all sorts of valuable updates to help you decide if you want to apply. Updates about clubs and groups, which will help you get an idea of what campus life is like.


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