I should be packing for my trip back to my hometown, Martinsville, Virginia…back to my high school classmates as we celebrate our 40th high school reunion but, instead, I’m writing this and reflecting on how different college search is today compared to when I graduated high school 4o years ago.
At a time when social sharing meant passing notes in class, talking on the phone, or piling into a car with a group of friends and heading to Rumley’s (the local dine and drive-in sandwich shop) for fries and a Coke, college search meant asking your friends where they planned to go, and deciding where to attend was heavily influenced by what your dad said to do.
At least, that’s how was for me. I applied to Mary Baldwin, Longwood University and Virginia Tech (known then as “VPI”). I was accepted to all three and never visited any of them. During the discussion with my father about which college to attend, it pretty much came down to him saying VPI was where I should go.
Neither of my parents attended college and it’s likely my father had never heard of Mary Baldwin or Longwood, but he had heard of VPI, the largest state university in Virginia, and people he respected had attended there. So, without the help of Google, college search web sites, guidance counselors, or advisors, the decision was made based on the information available to us at the time.
How did I feel about it all? Relieved that deciding where to go was done and relieved that many of my classmates were also planning to attend VPI with me. Was VPI/Virginia Tech the right college fit for me? Maybe not initially, but I grew into it and am proud to have graduated from there. Sometimes, you have to find a way to make your college the right fit after you get there.
In 40 years we’ve gone from having very little access to information about the more than 3,000 colleges in the US to perhaps too much information, but thankfully we have tools to help us filter, evaluate and rank colleges that can provide a better insight as to the right college fit.