The “Better” College

Julie Lee

As I went over the pros and cons of each potential college with college decisions, scholarship letters, financial packages, and program brochures scattered all over the dining room table, it was pretty clear in my mind where I wanted to go – University of Pittsburgh.

But, on the back on my mind, the thought of “name value” lingered. Especially in a community like Radnor, name value of colleges seems so important. Ivies and schools with lower acceptance rates are glorified while state schools like Pitt and Penn State are often viewed as ‘safeties’.

Personally, looking to pursue pharmacy, my top choices at the end of the process were Northeastern, U Michigan, and Pitt. Although Pitt had a top-notch pharmacy program, an awesome ultimate team, and a community I really saw myself in, I hesitated in committing because I knew in Radnor, Northeastern and U Michigan are considered to be ‘better’ schools.

To be honest, I don’t even know what a ‘better’ school is. Without a doubt, there are some schools that Radnor treat as being more prestigious than another. While every college advice surrounds the idea of finding the right fit for you, communities like Radnor are extremely sensitive to the idea of a high-profile school. Rather than thinking about what school is best for the individual, I see a lot of students and parents hung up on  the  US News World Report rankings, average GPA and SAT score range,  or the acceptance rate of a college.

I know this because before really diving into the college process, I also didn’t consider state schools like Pitt and Penn State to be great. I didn’t realize the top-tier engineering program that Penn State had or the countless opportunities Pitt had for medical-related careers. But, as I did more research and slowly reached the end of my college search,  I realized whether a college is ‘better’ or not is determined by your interests and career paths, not the name value of the school.

Once I was able to get over the Radnor’s stereotype for a ‘better’ college, I made my decision to attend University of Pittsburgh.

The day after I made the traditional senior Facebook post, “University of Pittsburgh Class of 2021!”, a classmate came up to me and asked, “Wait, why are you going there?” Seeing my confused look, he explained that he thought I was “above that” and was for sure going to choose one of the other options I had. Although he claimed he meant it as a compliment, I was appalled. He didn’t even know what program I wanted to pursue, the campus I wanted to live in, or even the extracurriculars I was interested in taking part in college. But, again, just based on the Radnor definition  of a ‘better’ college, he didn’t understand why I chose Pitt.

Although I was upset, I don’t completely blame him. We did all in fact grow up in an environment with Radnor college standards. In fact, it took me up until Senior year to come to the realization that a ‘better’ college is determined by what you’re looking for, not U.S News rankings.

With this all in mind, I hope that if you’re an underclassman reading this article, that you never choose somewhere you’re going to be for four or more years solely based on the Radnor standards.

As I end this article, I want to leave you with a short anecdote that shifted my perspective. Stressed and overwhelmed, I went to Mr. Wright earlier in the year with my college options and the dilemma I was having. He paused, looked up, and said, “Congratulations, you’re going to college.” The fact that going to college itself was an accomplishment has never crossed my mind as in Radnor, college is an expectation.

Whether you go to an Ivy, state school, or a small liberal arts college, find somewhere you feel comfortable in and most importantly, see yourself in. Consider programs and career paths you want to explore, not low acceptance rates and high SAT scores. Don’t cross out options because other people think it’s not ‘better’ than your other options, but because you feel like one school is a better fit for you than another.