Talk to me about College

I’ve been looking through my bookstore’s college section, investigating schools I might be interested in attending one day. I was distressed, however, to find pretty much two kinds of college guides: ‘How to get into an Ivy League’ and ‘How to get into whatever Z-grade school will take you once all the Ivies have rejected you, you miserable bastard’.

I’m not a high school student, which (understandably) most of the books are targeted towards. I’ve done the community college thing, I’ve lived independantly since I was 17, I’ve traveled around a bit. I don’t particularly want to go to Princeton or Yale, but neither am I some bottom-of-the-barrel student to be shuffled in with the underachievers. As someone who’s been growing disenchanted with college anyway, and who fears she may not have much in common with other college students once I get there, I’m feeling a bit disheartened. I just can’t see myself putting up with sorority pledging or keggers. At the same time I don’t want to get lost in the crowd. I guess I just want to hear some encouraging words or opinions from those who’ve been there before.

I go to a big state school, the University of Colorado at Boulder, ranked as the number one party school by the Princeton Review in 2003 (a bullshit ranking at any rate, anyway).

I can’t stand a kegger, most frat boys or sorostitutes, I’m a classics major, I scored a 1520 on my SAT’s, top 3% of my class, blah, blah, blah, and I’ve had a truly great time here, and I’m only spending about $3,500 net/year to go hear (higher when I’m careless with the library books).

So, the point being that at any suffeciently large institution, including a lot of cheap state schools, you’ll manage to find a large niche of interesting people. In all honesty, 95% of all undergrad courses of study beyond engineering or architecture leave enough time for you to pursue outside interests from athletics to volunteer work or even a half-time position. I find it helpful not to define my life solely as a student, but school’s something that I spend 60% of my, “working hours,” on, so make the effort to go ahead and head to college.

(Everything I said is a complete lie, but did it make you want to go back to college?)

I’m not sure exactly what state you’re in, but many large public universities have students of all age groups. They’re not a bad bet. The degree won’t jump off the paper the same way a presitigious private school will, but you won’t have to answer the, “Where is that?” question either.

There will be a mix of students. Some who are there to party and barely graduate and some very serious students. Most are likely to be from that state.

We’ve had many threads here over the years discussing various colleges. You might want to do a search on one or two you might be interested in. If you have additional questions, just start a thread on that school. It is likely that at least one Doper went there!

Do you know or have an inkling of what you might want to major in? If so, grab a copy of the newest edition of the Rugg’s List. It’s an excellent ranking of the best colleges in each field. Many of them will surprise you - the Ivies aren’t always or even often at the top of the list.

If you don’t have any idea, that’s fine. You can still narrow it down by the criteria of how big of a school you want, city or non-city, and how far away you’re willing to go. dalej42’s suggestion of a large state school is an excellent one, as is searching for previous threads.

Go to a school that’s known for the degree you are persuing. I am going to a state school (University of Missouri-Columbia) but it is very well known for journalism. People from all across the country come here for journalism. Another Missouri state school, the one in Rolla (quite small) is known for engineering. If you can’t get into MIT, you can go to Rolla and get a good state education in that field.

I chose a small state school. I didn’t enter college until I was twenty-two years old myself. My school had a high percentage of non-traditional students. They outnumber the traditional ones, in fact, especially in my college (business). The usual college social scene was not my thing, and I didn’t participate in it. I made a few friends who weren’t into that either, and did pretty well.

I was worried at first that I would get lost in the shuffle, too. It turned out, though, that school was the least stressful thing going on all that time.

I went to an Ivy League school, and from your OP I imagine you would have fit in pretty well there. At any school, you’ll find students who get drunk every weekend and students who don’t; you’ll find people who do nothing but study and people who only get to class once or twice a week. Don’t pick a school based on the students there, because you’ll find similar students everywhere. Look at what the schools have to offer you.

Do you want to study medieval history? Social psychology? Applied math? Astrophysics? There are schools out there that have great programs in any field you could think of. If you’re not sure what you’re interested in, it might pay to look at some highly ranked schools, public or private, that are strong across the board.

The students who got the most out of the experience were the ones who put the most into it. Like Threemae said, just about any field (including engineering and architecture) leaves you time to do whatever you decide is important. Even studying engineering, I worked part time and worked as a set designer and carpenter for a student-run theater.

I’ve never regretted the time or money that I spent in college (at 30 years old, I’m almost done paying back the loans), but I’ve often wondered what it would have been like if I’d been older or wiser when I started. You’ve got a golden opportunity to find out. Let me know!

U.S. News & World Report features all manner of guides to U.S./Canadian colleges by several manner (public/private, discipline, etc.). There are also several “just the facts” guides to colleges (size, tuition, narrative descriptions, etc.) that are standard reference books at any college.

I started college at 17 and, due to a long odd series of events, graduated at 28. (I had to drop out a lot due to a combination of money and family issues, and sometimes not going at all and sometimes returning to take one course per semester which is why it took a long time.) I was a completely different person at 28 than I was when I started, and different yet at 33 when I went to grad school. I’m not so sure about the truth value of “Youth is wasted on the young”, but college most definitely is. I enjoyed it far far more in my mid/late 20s when I had some real life under my belt to give perspective and application to so much of the information. Even though I didn’t have the traditional “picnics on the quad and discussing the mysteries over 4 am pizza with my homies” experience (it was more “sh!t, I’ve got to leave the discussion of William James and fractals and get to whatever cheapskate McEmployer I’m wearing a nametag for this year”) I think I appreciated the experience far more than many who did. I wasn’t alone in this either: it was really interesting in the occasional entry level requirement I had to fill when I was in my late 20s to see the eyes of most of the teenagers in the course glaze over with “Why do I have to hear this?” indifference as being told of retrograde orbits or miracle plays while I, 10 years their senior, and other students in the class my age and some old enough to be my parents, were actually processing the info and then discussing it after.

In Sampiro World, I don’t think anybody will be allowed to go to college until they’re at least 25, when state owned daycares will look over the kids of those who’ve already whelped and need to go and then upon graduation give them back their kid or one very much like him or her. This will allow college professors to have more interested and appreciative students and will allow students to appreciate the opportunity a little bit more, and will allow the nation to graduate more and more people worthy of populating the various Sampiropolises and appreciating the increasingly gigantic statues of me being erected throughout the nation while… I’m sorry what was the question?

Oh yeah, college… you’ll love it.

There are a few schools I’ve been looking at which have appealed to me for various reasons. I’m not a highly competitive person – I enjoy class, I get good grades, but I’m not one for studying myself sick until the wee hours chasing a perfect GPA. My nightmare is getting stuck at some school in the ass-end of frozen hell, crushed under my class workload, surrounded by 18-year-olds who bug me to buy them beer all the time.

I’m interested in Berea College (Kentucky), University of Arkansas (Arkansas), College of the Ozarks (Missouri), and University of Utah (Utah). Of these, Berea is definitely my favorite, I like the principles behind the school. I’m really attracted by the lack of a drinking culture at Utah; I don’t have moral prohibitions against alcohol, I just don’t drink, and being around folks who can have a good time without getting shitfaced is appealing. Has anyone attended these schools and can give me info on what life and studying are really like there?

One of my closest friends attended Berea and absolutely loved it. She’s a very intelligent and “cut the crap” person and said it synched with her that way.

On the subject of drinking schools, I attended the University of Alabama from 1999-2000 when it was the Number 1 Party School in the nation and I was almost twice the age of incoming freshmen. I never one time was bothered by the drinking culture as, if you’re not looking for it, it’s really not there. The drinking is done in bars I don’t go to and parties I’m not invited to so- don’t let that be a determinant (and as a southerner from a not particularly progressive state as are you, I’ve always been afraid of Utah= I’m guessing it’s exactly the same as Alabama/Mississippi in the “lots of great and reasonable and highly intelligent people for every Orrin Hatch” thing, but at the same point it seems a lot like Alabama with canyons and snow, plus I’m always reminded of a friend who went to the University of Idaho when she was 21 and lived in “the Mormotorium” where her roommates had posters of Jesus on the wall and every boy her age she thought was cute was already married with a kid and another on the way. The people were exceptionally nice she said, but somehow the wholesomeness, different humidity levels and the complete absence of black people in most places (she grew up in Georgia) were spooky.

Of course with her, when she told her roommates she’d had sex before (and made out with women besides) and wasn’t married she thought they’d brand her with a W for “whore” and turn their backs on her. Instead it was the opposite. “What’s it like? Does it hurt the first time? What makes it more pleasurable? Is it true that doggy style is still fun?” blah blah blah. She became the resident slut/expert. The girls were still true to their values- they still didn’t plan to have sex until they were married or had their third child, whichever came first. However, it helped her find her niche as the girls had every bit as healthy an interest in it as anybody else. She also said that in the defense of the predominantly Mormon student population, they were actually less judgmental than the Baptists she’d grown up with.

PS- I forgot to mention that I’m pretty much exactly like you are on the drinking issue: nothing moral against people drinking responsibly but I just don’t happen to drink myself (not quite a teetotaller but I can go months and months at a time between drinks). That’s why I was concerned about U of AL when I attended, and the concern about the drinking culture was for naught.

I am, incidentally, honor bound to promote COPLAC schools as I think they are America’s most underutilized great thing.

One thing you’ll probably find is that at almost every school, the older students don’t partake in the alcohol frenzy which is common among the 18-21 year old students. It really is something that many students outgrow.

BTW, I should mention that I attended Florida State University, which is usually considered one of the top party schools in the country.

I work full time, have two kids in elementary school, and am going on 40. I chose a state school, not much of a reputation, that specializes in working adults. 80% of their courses are at night.

What I like:

Its realatively easy to fit into my schedule, particularly with online and independant study courses

It isn’t too challenging, I don’t need that right now.

There is NO college life. I’ve been there a year and a half and I don’t have anyone’s phone number. I go to class, I go home. Sometimes I see someone I had a class with and say hi.

Its cheap.

What I don’t like:

It isn’t challenging.

While a lot of us are working adults, a lot of the working adults are “I’m twenty two and I failed out of UW-River Falls.”

(After 20 years in corporate America, the degree is a functional footnote - its just a footnote I didn’t bother to get first time around, that may be important).

I’d recommend getting one of the “soft focus” college books, such as the Fiske Guide To American Colleges which attempts to describe the atmosphere and Quality of life/intangibles of each school. Then I would strongly advise visiting the schools you are most interested in (the admissions office can usually set you up with an on-campus overnight stay).

It can very well be that a school which seems “just right” on paper rubs you the wrong way in person, and the reverse can also be true.

There aren’t just two or three or even five tiers of U.S. colleges. There are about 3000 colleges in the U.S. and you can find just about anything your heart desires. The Ivy League is simply eight old East Coast schools that formed a sports league. They aren’t the top at everything or probably even most things once you break it down (I went to Dartmouth for grad school and it was posh but lots of non-Ivy’s do just as well).

If you are willing to open your options to the whole country, you can have damned near any combination of qualities you desire.

I’m currently enrolled at Radford University (unofficial motto: “You can’t spell dRUnk without RU!”) where there is a big party scene. I get confused when I go home and every other person isn’t wearing a t-shirt with greek letters on it. That being said, I’m not a partier and I have no trouble fitting in with classmates. Once I got into the classes for my major, I started seeing the same core group of people every single day. We’re friendly on an academic level (study groups and what not) and some of us are friends on a more social level. The age range varies from traditional college aged folk, like me, to a few in their upper twenties with one woman who has a few middle and high school aged kids. I’ve never felt like any one person doesn’t fit because of his or her age; we’re all on the same level when it comes to acadmics.

Last semester, RU’s school paper ran an article about “non-traditional” students. It may help you find encouragement. Appearantly, RU has a little over one thousand non-traditional students, not bad considering we only have a hair over 9,000 undergrads last time I checked. I can’t imagine the situation being too different at other universities. Good luck!


At the end of the day if money is any concern whatsoever it is going to be best to attend an in state college instead of an out of state college. The price differences can add up to about 40k over the course of 4 years.

As far as the college there can be major variations. I am 26 and didn’t start college until I was around 22. Right now I’m in IU bloomington which is filled with 19 year olds. I don’t really fit in here or relate but I manage to get by, you only need 2-3 good friends to feel comfortable in a situation and its not extremely hard to find 2-3 people you can relate to. But I used to go to IU east which was filled with other non-traditional students, blue collar people who just wanted a degree to get a better job. Those students outnumbered the traditional students and I liked it there alot more.

Every college is going to have binge drinking, high achievers and people who barely attend classes. Even caltech and MIT have binge drinking problems, but not to the degree of the rest of the nation.

Well, I suppose you don’t want a recommendation, but I’ll give one anyway:

Haverford College

I figure that it’s a good match for someone who’s a smart young adult and wants a real education. It was started as a Quaker school, so it has a tradition of individualism, individual responsibility, maturity, and conscience. I loved it, and I am still using ideas and values I learned there.

It doesn’t have frats or sororities, it’s not a huge party school, and it’s small, mebbe 1000 students now, co-ed but over 50% female. You won’t be lost in the crowd there; you’ll get a chance to do just about anything you want.

It has nice facilities, a gorgeous campus, great professors. It’s a short train ride to Philadelphia.

Downside is that it’s a somewhat expensive private school, but it does try to get you the financial help you need if you get admitted.

Don’t give up. No matter where you go, you can find real education that helps your life.

Well, I didn’t attend University of Arkansas myself, but I spent my junior high and high school years in Fayetteville while my father was finishing up his undergrad degree (graduated at age 38), my sister and brother-in-law both graduated from U of A, and my mom worked as a secretary at the university most of the time we lived there, so I’m pretty familiar with it. U of A has a very strong Greek scene, which is part of the reason I went elsewhere – wasn’t really interested in that, and I was a typical teenage pseudo-intellectual snob who considered state schools – especially one I knew that well – beneath me. On the other hand, as my dad’s experience showed, it’s very possible for a non-traditional student to do well there. There a plenty of worse places to live than Fayetteville, especially now that the northwest Arkansas area has grown to close to 250K people. Insofar as any place in Arkansas can be said to be “cosmopolitan”, Fayetteville would be it. It has changed a lot in the twenty years since I lived there myself, but my parents still live in the area so I visit a couple of times a year and as an outsider who’s now more used to city life, I think most of the changes are for the better.