Written by gbspcamp on Wednesday, October 22, 2014
In the college search process, it's important to consider factors like size, type, location, and student life. Are you interested in a large research university or a small, private liberal arts school? Do you enjoy STEM courses, the humanities, or both? What extracurriculars would you like to get involved in? Importantly, what questions should you ask to ensure the school is a good fit? Two GBSP PA's from two very different schools share their insights with us.
Attended: Texas A&M University
Relationship to Great Books: Program Assistant ’13, ’14
How many schools did you look at? I considered close to 15 schools, and applied to 10 of them.
Was location an important factor in your college selection? Yes; my goal was to explore a new part of the country during my college years, so about two thirds of the schools I applied to were outside Texas. As fate would have it, the schools I was accepted to were all in-state.
Was the size of the school a factor in your search and selection? Yes, I originally wanted to go to a small or mid-size liberal arts college. Ironically, I ended up at one of the largest universities in the nation (58,000+ students); one that is known mostly for business, agriculture and engineering.
What were three key qualities you looked for in your college? I was looking for a college that would challenge and grow me intellectually, socially, and spiritually.
What do you love most about your current or former college/university? I most love the atmosphere of tradition that permeates the university. Aggies have a history of sacrificing for others, serving in every conflict fought by the United States since the Spanish-American War, even commissioning 14,123 officers during WWII – more than the combined total of the US Naval Academy and West Point during the same time span. Also, the school’s reverence for those who have died is poignantly felt during the traditions of Silver Taps and Muster. If a current student dies, other students gather in silence as the deceased is honored by the bugle and 21-gun salute ceremony of Silver Taps. Muster celebrates camaraderie and remembers the lives of Aggies who have died that year in a ceremony that culminates when family members and friends answer “here” when their loved ones’ names are called in the roll call, or “muster.” Muster ceremonies are held in over 300 locations globally.
Are sports a huge part of the social scene? Do you spectate? Absolutely. Since 2012, the Aggies have been a member of the SEC (the most elite football conference in the nation) and with 20 varsity teams competing in Division I of NCAA sports, there is always a sporting event to enjoy. But Aggies don’t just spectate, they participate. This is seen most clearly in the tradition of the 12 th man, where the student body stands throughout the entirety of every football game to symbolize their “readiness, desire, and enthusiasm” to enter the game if it were necessary. During my time at Texas A&M, I attended tennis matches; basketball, volleyball, soccer and baseball games; and of course football games, standing for around 100 hours in Kyle Field, ready if the football team ever needed my 5’9”, 150 pound frame.
Describe the student body: The student body stands out for being extremely involved, religious, happy and friendly. With over 1,000 student organizations, everyone can find his or her niche. Also, over 10,000 students regularly attend Breakaway, a weekly Bible study held in the basketball arena. As students pass each other on campus, they greet each other with a cheerful “Howdy!” Recent surveys have pegged Texas A&M as the “happiest” and “friendliest” campus in the nation.
What were your top three favorite classes during your time in college?
- Writer’s Workshop: Prose
- New Testament Studies
- The Big Bang and Black Holes
Last thoughts: Don’t worry if you don’t get into your top school(s). Texas A&M was 5 th or 6 th on my list and I ended up having an incredible experience there I wouldn’t trade for anything.
Currently attending: Hamilton College
Studying: Psychology and Environment Studies
Relationship to Great Books: PA ‘14
How many schools did you look at? 12
When did you start looking? Spring/summer before senior year of high school
Was the size of the school a factor in your search and selection? Yes! I thought I wanted a small school and I was so right—Hamilton is around 1800 students and I don't think I could've gone anywhere bigger.
What were three key qualities you looked for in your college? Good people, comfy chairs, and intimate classroom settings
What questions should you ask your college tour guide? How would you describe the study body? How do students blow off steam when they're not doing work? What made you decide to come to this school? Will my professors know my name?
What do you love most about your current or former college/university? THE PEOPLE! Hamilton is this amalgam of the most interesting, friendly, smart, funny, and compassionate people. People at Hamilton genuinely care about their peers, environment, classes, sports teams, clubs—and that passion for each of these things often comes out in the most wonderfully nerdy ways. And as an added bonus, Hamilton has an open curriculum and an incredibly warm, homey vibe (helped in part by the plethora of comfy chairs and cozy spaces scattered around campus) that really lets students explore everything that Hamilton has to offer in a safe and welcoming environment.
What about the food? The food is surprisingly good for a college! We buy most of our food locally and have really good vegan/vegetarian/gluten-free options. Hamilton is actually a pretty easy place to be healthy, too! There's the ever-tempting pizza and burgers but also an extensive salad and sandwich bar and a general omnipresence of leafy greens, squash, and eggplant.
Describe the student body The way that Hamilton students describe themselves perfectly sums it up: we take our work seriously, but we don't take ourselves seriously. While you'd be hard-pressed to find a more studious group, every student at Hamilton is equally goofy and weird as they are smart and hardworking. People here have an impressive grasp of priorities and know that things like friendship, emotional intelligence, and stepping out of your comfort zone can be just as important as the intellectual aspects of the college experience.
What are your top three favorite classes?
Truth, Lies in Literature with Prof. Janelle Schwartz – An English class devoted to exploring the role of lies, manipulation, and story-telling in a variety of works by Kurt Vonnegut, Tim O'Brien, Carlos Fuentes, and Warner Herzog documentaries. This class blew my mind every single day and gave me an eye-opening perspective as to why we need to tell stories—and what the stories we tell can say about us.
Cultural and Natural History of the Adirondack Park with Prof. Janelle Schwartz – An interdisciplinary course that examines the Adirondack Park from cultural, historical, ecological, literary, geological, and economical vantage points. We talk a lot about how humans have affected the Adirondack landscape, how that landscape has affected us, and what the human-environment relationship in the Adirondacks can teach us about our place in natural systems on a larger, long-term scale.
Human Memory with Prof. Azriel Grysman – A psychology course that looks to understand memory as the basis of human consciousness. We discuss everything from the neurological processes that underpin memory to the evolutionary relationship between memory and the sense of self, discussions that extend to real-life applications like the place of false memories in the court room or the understanding of memory deficiencies in Alzeheimer's Disease, amnesia, and semantic dementia.
Great Books staff members hail from excellent colleges and universities from all around the world. GBSP College Panel is a monthly post that shares the insights of our current or graduated staff with our college-bound community!