During the college search, students often look for a familiar setting with people like themselves.
But others prefer a divergent setting with unique cultures and experiences.
Seniors Caleb Davis and Savannah Symister are good examples of both.
Next fall, Davis will attend Morehouse College in Atlanta, Ga.
The school’s website describes itself as the “only all-male, historically black institution of higher learning in the United States.”
Davis will be the first alumnus to attend a historically black school.
Davis became interested in Morehouse when he visited the campus last summer through the Coca-Cola Pre-College Leadership Program, which provides prospective high-school students with a seven-day stay at the campus.
During their stay, students explore the grounds and learn how to be leaders.
“(The program) really set me on Morehouse because I felt the brotherhood, and I felt like I belonged there,” Davis said.
Every evening just before bed, students would sing a song called “Spiraling into the Center.”
According to Davis, everyone would hold hands in a circle and shout the words of the song.
“It seemed silly at first, but after I started to just go with it and shout the lyrics with everybody else, I started to feel like I was truly part of the group,” Davis said.
Davis said he originally was also interested in attending UC and CSU schools. However, “those schools didn’t have the same sense of connectedness that Morehouse had,” Davis said.
Davis also appreciated that Morehouse not only educates its students but also, in his words, “teaches guys philosophically how to be a man.”
Another reason Davis selected Morehouse was because his father is an alumnus, but according to Davis, his mother was really the one who got him interested.
Davis’s mother attended Spelman College, which is a women’s college next to Morehouse.
Davis’s mother got Davis into the Coca-Cola leadership program, and she told Davis all about Morehouse, he said.
Although Davis is looking forward to attending Morehouse, he said that he was a bit worried about the history of racism in Georgia.
During his summer program, a couple of students visited a plantation near the campus.
“While we were there, two old people asked us if we were a football team, but we were really just students,” Davis said.
Although this was subtle, it was an example of racism that concerned him, Davis said.
Although Morehouse is a historically black college, Davis said that it is actually diverse.
“There are a lot of black students that come from Africa, Jamaica and the Middle East,” Davis said.
There are also a lot of people that are multiracial, he said.
For example, there are a lot of half black/half white, and half black/half Chinese students.
While Davis chose Morehouse because of its strong sense of community, Symister will be moving to London, England, to “experience something totally different,” Symister said.
Symister will attend Goldsmiths, University of London.
Since Symister was born in England and both of her parents were born and raised there, she thought that it would “be a cool thing to go back to my roots.”
In addition, her mother, Denise Symister, and some of her extended family are now living in London.
Symister was also fond of the university’s location within the city.
Since the school is in a more suburban setting, “the campus won’t be as crazy and hectic as central London,” Symister said.
Symister said she was especially attracted to being exposed to more culture and being around people who are more open-minded.
Denise Symister, who attended the University of East London, said that people in the UK are not necessarily more open-minded than people in America.
“However, colleges and schools (in the UK) are very diverse because many international students choose to study there,” she said.
During their studies, she said, students are forced to look at different perspectives, “which I know made me very open-minded and made me appreciate the exposure to those different cultures.”
For example, in history classes students compare European, Russian, American and South African history.
Despite her parents’ heritage, Symister said that they didn’t force her to choose an English college but simply encouraged her to consider colleges in England, America and Canada.
Although Symister is excited to attend Goldsmiths, she is going to miss some aspects of American colleges, such as the dorm room experience.
“In England, college students usually live in houses instead of dorms,” Symister said.
“They’re kind of like the houses you see in Harry Potter.”
She said she’ll also miss the restaurant In-N-Out Burger and driving her 2011 Toyota Corolla.
“Since my license won’t be valid in England, I am really going to miss driving on open roads,” Symister said.
Although Symister realizes that she will be an outsider to the people of London, she is looking forward to the challenge.
“I will do things that are unique to Americans, and I won’t always understand what the English are doing, but I’m going to have to learn to embrace their culture,” Symister said.
So Davis and Symister both chose colleges that they thought would fit them the best.
Yet they ended up selecting colleges for the exact opposite reasons.
While others take a chance on places they’ve never even visited
On May 1 seniors had to make their final decision—which college would it be?
Now a majority are imagining how they will fit into their home for the next four years.
But three seniors have little idea of what to expect.
Ryan Ho, Cissy Shi and Daniel Kong have never visited the colleges they will attend. In fact, Ho and Kong visited no colleges at all when making their decision.
Since they are international students, none of them live with their parents. For Ho and Kong this made travel plans difficult.
Shi, on the other hand, visited colleges on the East Coast a year ago. However, Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pa., the college she chose, was not one of those she was considering applying to then.
Therefore, all three picked colleges based on what they wanted to study.
Ho will attend New York University in New York City, and Kong will go to Loyola University in Chicago.
“Things like the weather don’t matter much to me,” Kong said. “It was very important for me to find a school with a good business program.”
Shi and Ho feel similarly.
Ho said that he had narrowed which college he would be going to down to Washington University in St Louis and NYU.
Ho chose NYU because he was accepted to the seven-year accelerated dental program.
For Shi, the decision came down to Barnard College in New York City, which she had visited, and Carnegie Mellon.
She chose Carnegie Mellon because it offered a major in financial engineering, which wasn’t available at Barnard.
“I love everything about Barnard,” Shi said. “But they don’t offer my major, so it’s a dead end to me.”
Some students can’t imagine not visiting the college before making their decision.
Although both Rutgers University in New Jersey and UC Davis had the pre-vet programs Kamira Patel wanted, after visiting Rutgers, Patel realized she couldn’t see herself there, she said.
“If I hadn’t visited Rutgers, I can’t imagine myself going there on the first day and realizing that there was no sense of community and the campus was so spread out,” Patel said.
When Troy Hoddick researched the University of North Carolina on the Internet, he said he found it a great college with fantastic science and business programs.
However, when he visited the college he hated it, he said.
“All the colleges talk about diversity,” Hoddick said. “UNC said they had 34 percent people of color, and that’s when I left.”
Hoddick wanted a college with more diversity.
He also realized that he wanted to be in an urban environment, and UNC is a suburban school.
“I wouldn’t have felt like I would have grown as a person at all at UNC,” Hoddick said. “The real world would have smacked me in the face when I got out.”
But Ho and Shi said that visiting would not have changed their decisions. Besides, they say, they’ve learned about their colleges in other ways.
Ho, Shi and Kong all researched their colleges on the Internet and talked to people there.
Kong talked to a college counselor at Loyola by phone, while Ho and Shi reached out to students at their colleges. Shi emailed the admissions office with questions about her major, and they forwarded her email to students.
Ho talked to two alumni—one who is doing an accelerated dental program at the University of Pennsylvania and another who is a student at NYU.
“I guess I’m blind trusting what is said on College Confidential and Student Doctors Forum,” Ho said.
Despite having done research, Ho, Kong and Shi worry about what will happen in the fall.
Kong said he is most concerned about transportation, but the cold weather also worries him.
“I saw myself at a college with a campus feel, nice weather, in California and with a lot of spirit,” Ho said. “I didn’t expect to not have a campus and be in New York City.”
For Ho, even Sacramento winters are unbearable. “I will definitely miss my California sun,” he said.
And he is concerned what the first few weeks will be like in the middle of one of the biggest cities in the world.
College counselor Jane Bauman said that it is difficult for students to understand the vibe of the college without visiting it.
For some students the focus of college is their field of study. For other students it’s trying to go to that school and then a graduate school. Visiting the college gives students an idea of what they are looking for in a college, Bauman said.
While touring colleges with her daughter, Bauman recalls visiting Barnard and noticing that all the girls were very fashionably dressed (which was different from any other college she had visited). This was not something she would have learned from the website.
But Ho said he’s ultimately more concerned with the academics than the “fit.”
“I guess you could say I’m a typical Asian,” he said.