Thursday, October 1, 2009

How To Pick A College

I remember the college rat race. The endless SAT prep courses, writing and rewriting essays that poured your teenage heart out, the hired college counselors who offered you an arsenal of tricks and secrets to acceptance, all for a fee.
I remember being all caught up in that too, believing that if I raised my score just 50 more points, wrote a more heart-wrenching tale of childhood difficulties in suburbia, or was guided by a more-informed counselor, that would make all the difference.

My high school posted the names of colleges up on a hallway bulletin board as students from the graduating class were accepted. Everybody knew which flag corresponded to which student, making college acceptance more like a dog show than the monumental, personal decision it ought to be. But I was caught up in all the glamour, and I wanted my own spotlight.

So I applied: Berkeley, Stanford, UCLA, USC. (I was also caught up in getting as far away from my parents as possible).

And I heard back: Denied, denied, denied, delayed acceptance.

The students that got in to these schools weren't necessarily smarter than me, or even had better grades. Sometimes it came down to a distant aunt or uncle who knew somebody, or an alumni link, or just being in the right place at the right time. And I remember being distraught and resentful, completely beside myself with the knowledge that I wasn't going to a brand-name school. Surely I wouldn't have a successful future without a degree from Stanford behind me.

I looked over my acceptances, a selection I scorned at the time but now appreciate. And after flying down to Miami and back in a day, and examining the generous scholarship package offered, I accepted my place at the University of Miami- at the very last minute. I remember friends being shocked at my decision, with "the U," as it is called, having more of a party reputation than my desired college counterparts.

Now I am a senior, and I still get the same skeptical looks and "Suntan U" jokes when I tell people that I, proudly, attend the University of Miami. And I don't try to deny that yes, I go to the beach when I have free time, and yes, I have a wonderful, albeit quite temporary, life in Southern Florida where I do dance on South Beach and drive up toDisney World on occasion. But those things, while wonderful, certainly don't define my college experience- which has been full of all-nighters, study cram sessions, professors that challenged me beyond belief, and a scholarship program that has sent me to study in Europe.

My time at the University of Miami has been full of hard work, life lessons, and experiences that have shaped me into the person that I am today- and have yet to become. I am proud to be a Miami Hurricane- and, as we say, I "bleed orange and green."

Looking back at who I was in high school, I realize that I have come a long way. College isn't a brand name. It's an experience. And, more importantly, it's what you put into it. Beach or no beach, if your priorities aren't straight, you won't succeed. I can't reach into the past, but if I could- I would surely give every frenzied college counselor and pushy parent a taste of reality and rip the college names from the hallway bulletin board. And I would tell those students, wide-eyed and worried, to choose the school where they know they fit best of all. Brand names are for jeans, and happiness is for life.

Nina Markowitz

University of Miami '10
University of Copenhagen '09
Journalism, International Studies & Spanish
+45 50 66 96 94


Gianna said...

Great article and soooo true! You can f* up at Stanford just as well as you can f* up at a state university and you can shine at a state u. just as well as you can shine at Stanford. A name is a name is a name. You are the deciding factor for your success, not which school is on your diploma. It's all up to you, what you put into it and how you keep your head on.

Anonymous said...

Hi there,
As a graduate of UM in '81 I too got lots of crap from people who I think were deep down really jealous that I went to such a great school. But I must say, I got an amazing education with teachers like the esteemed Issac Singer and Dr. Helen Fagin how could it have been bad? Yes I loved warm weather, and I played tennis every day, but I also went to class every day, and the weather actually made me get up in the morning and GO to class. I hate cold weather and snow! And for those who make fun, I got into Wharton School of Business and GU, and the Art program at Syracuse...I still chose UM and there was never a minute that I was sorry for that. And as a 50 yr old who has been employeed in incredible jobs, I never ever had a problem getting employment! My first great job I actually got because the Vice President of marketing/advertising at Bloomingdale's in NY got his first job in Miami and we had a real connection because of that. So there! Go Canes....Awesome of luck to you