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April 7, 2014

Deciderization 2014 (The Last One): Figuring it Out

So in my previous two posts, I talked about culture and how it’s probably the most important factor that goes into deciding which college is the right one for you. The trouble is, figuring out a school’s culture is really hard.

When I first got to England and people back home asked me what it was like, I would say “It’s different, but I can’t explain why.” And I still feel that way. You’re going to feel that way too–all of the schools you’re looking at are hugely different from each other, but often in ways that are very difficult to simplify into sentences.

But you don’t really have to simply the differences into sentences, as long as you can understand them in your head. So here are a couple of less-traditional ways of learning about a school. Most people go on tours and read blogs, but there are other ways to find out what a given culture is like.

1. Student Newspapers

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Okay I’m a teensy bit biased here (when I’m not abroad, I’m the editor-in-chief of Clark’s student newspaper, The Scarlet.) But I actually got this idea from my dad. When he and my mom were looking to move out of Brooklyn, he picked up a local newspaper for every town that they were thinking of moving to. This gave him an idea of what was going on in the town in a way that a realtor wouldn’t. Same thing for goes for colleges: the newspaper will tell you what’s going on and how people feel about what’s going on. That’s exactly what you want to know, isn’t it?

(Also, be sure to check out the interview with Tony in this week’s issue. He makes the pizza in the Cafeteria, and he’s the absolute best guy. He’s also a Knicks fan, which makes me happy.)

2. Student Activity Portals

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These might be a little hard to find, but with a little Internet jiggery-pokery, you might find yourself on a page like this one. This is L*IN*K, which probably stands for something, but I never found out what. Most Clark students use it to book rooms and schedule events for student organizations. (Most Clark students, by the end of their career, serve on the executive board for some organization or another.) But you, as a prospective student, can use L*IN*K to check out the calendar of events and the list of student organizations, to see what sort of stuff happens on campus on the day-to-day. These groups and events are going to make up much of your weekly schedule (at least if you go to Clark), so getting to know them in advance is a pretty good idea.

3. Google Maps

Okay this idea was all Amy, but I thought it was really brilliant. You can click here for her whole spiel on it, but the general idea is that you can explore campus from the comfort of your couch/bed/bathtub (actually don’t bring your computer into the bathtub), which is especially helpful if you can’t make a visit and you really want to get a visual.

4. Course Listings. I picked this idea up from someone who works in Admissions, but I cannot for the life of me remember who it was. I feel rather bad about that. But let’s steal their idea anyway.

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The course listings do more than give you an idea of how long classes last at a given school (although that is sort of important). They tell you about what sort of stuff you can learn, which is kind of the point of collegeCheck out the listings for all sorts of different departments and see what tickles your fancy. Maybe you’ll see something really cool that you didn’t think you’d be interested in. I’d also recommend checking out a school’s Program of Liberal Studies (if the school has one) to see what sort of stuff you can do with your general education requirements, and which classes you can take (definitely take a look here, there are some serious gems).

5. Get in touch. 

In general, people who go to college really like talking about their schools. So the best way to find out what it’s like to go to a given place is to ask. If you know someone who goes somewhere, drop them a text, Facebook message, or (if you’re still using AOL), leave a passive-aggressive Away Message. Just get in touch somehow. (My email address, for the curious among you, is I excitedly await your correspondence.)

I’m ending the Deciderization theme here, because I’m about to embark on a three-week trip of Europe, and the blog posts from here on out will be tales and photographs documenting my adventures. If you’re still Deciderizing, there are some other blog posts hanging out this page for you. I highly recommend Rian’s. Yay!

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