“Super successful parents expect nothing less from their offspring and when it comes to college, that means the Ivies. It’s more than just getting into college, it’s setting a course for the rest of your life. And for those few that aren’t legacies, the pressures are no less. When parents have sacrificed for their futures, what kid would want to let them down?”
Not everyone is an Upper East Side private school student, like the characters in CW’s teen drama Gossip Girl, but that doesn’t mean the pressure of college choice is any less present.
Besides choice of major and monetary restrictions, is family really as influential as suggested above?
For some, the family factor in choosing a college is the single most important influence. For others, not so much. Besides the “we-are-family” students, Minnehaha exhibits various other stereotypes as much as any other school, but it’s not always that simple.
Some students are more than one type and take more than one thing into account when finding the right place for them to spend four years of their life.
We are family
Just the influence of parents could make a difference in one of the most important decisions of their child’s lives.
Senior Catherine Simmons, who’s headed to Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tennessee this coming fall, had a lot of family influence when it came to the location of her college.
“My parents actually both went to college in Nashville,” said senior Catherine Simmons, “They met at Vanderbuilt University which is about five minutes away from Lipscomb, which is super cool. Going down to visit, it was really fun hearing them talk about old memories and old places they’d been around campus.”
There’s no place like home
Along with family ties to the schools, a thing that’s trending here is ties to the families themselves.
“I didn’t want to move too far away from my family,” said senior Josh Ringling, who’s going to Michigan Technological University next school year. “I wanted to be able to drive back to them every couple weeks.”
Senior Katie Bjorlin, who has Wheaton College in Illinois as her top choice, had the same kind of idea; only she wanted to keep independent by being just the right distance away from home.
“I wanted to go to Chicago,” said Bjorlin. “It was a good distance for me because I can still come home for holidays but I don’t have to come home every weekend because it’s a family birthday party or something like that.”
And they’re out of here
In contrast to the “there’s-no-place-like-home” students, there are students who also want to just get away from the place they’ve lived for the last eighteen years.
“I know that I wanted to be far from home,” said senior Becca Lundberg, who’s bound for Eastern University in Philadelphia. “Not because I don’t like my family. I just wanted an adventure.”
But what happens when the adventure isn’t as exciting as originally thought?
“I think [homesickness] can be a huge factor for students when choosing colleges for sure,” said Minnehaha college counselor Richard Harris. “When students want to get away, they find in the first few months that Minnehaha is a very loving, caring community and that isn’t always evident at a larger institution, especially for kids that have been here for a very long time, stepping out to a big research institution far away from home can be difficult. Some decide to transfer and some decide to stay.”
Still though, students are not ill prepared for the struggles of wanting to come home. They know the ramifications, but they’re still willing to get out and try something new
With Minnehaha Academy being a Christian school, it isn’t much of a surprise that most students want to grow in their faith when they head off to college.
“I was realizing how hard it is to stay true to your faith all the time, even in a Christian high school,” junior Joelle Wilson said. “I can’t imagine going to a secular school where you’re with people who don’t believe the things you do personally. I just feel like I could not hold that on my shoulders. I just want to have the assurance of a [Christian community].”
Although faith is a factor in many lives of high school seniors at Minnehaha, it wasn’t about to influence their college choices too much.
“I’d say that about 15-20% elect to go to a distinctively Christian school,” said Harris. “And what that tells me is that there’s another about 80-85% of students that are looking for different opportunities. I’ll have many students that tell me they want to go out and explore their faith. They’ll go to a big secular university but still be a part of Fellowship of Christian Athletes or Campus Crusades, where they find their faith in a secular institution. I find that that’s more common than students going to a Christian school.”
The community players
It has been said before that when in doubt, go with your gut instinct.
“I visited a lot of the schools,” said Marcotte. “And it was just like, you hear this a lot, but the vibe that you got there as you’re going on tour. Like could you see yourself there. And that’s what stood out for me for my top choices.”
Although that may work for some, a warning label comes with the vibes received when visiting campus for the first time.
“I always warn students away from the first gut feeling that they have in the first 30 minutes,” Harris said. “Because often times that initial gut feeling, upon reflection, doesn’t give you a very accurate vision of the school.”
As high school nears its end, a new milestone appears on the radar.
“College is a time to be on our own and find out who we are as people,” Marcotte said. “I think that this is the time we need to focus on ourselves and choose what’s best for us as individuals.”