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The College Experience

Jacob Potts, Op-Ed Editor; Staff Writer

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Searching for potential colleges can prove overwhelming. When each and every college has a unique curriculum, location, size, and student body, it’s difficult to narrow your list down to just a few schools. Add in the pressure from the adults in your life to choose as soon as possible, and you have the recipe for a nail-biting, hyperventilating wreck of a student who doesn’t know where to start.

According to these recent graduates, there is no one universal college experience; there are many different choices you can make and still end up happy. The key is to examine your options and think about which college environment best suits you and your aspirations.

Former Insight Editor-in-Chief Emma Childs is a Communications and Fashion Design major at Fordham University’s Lincoln Center in Manhattan, a school of just under 2000 undergrads.  She described the school’s slogan—“New York City is my campus. Fordham is my school”—as “cheesy, but true.”

Childs has always known that she wanted to go to an urban university, but she soon zeroed in on New York City because of the opportunities that the Big Apple offers. “Vogue and Condé Nast are only a short distance away,” she explained, offering valuable internship opportunities for a Fashion Design student like Childs.

New York City also offers a unique lifestyle for a college student; instead of taking university-operated buses like many students in small towns, Childs travels from place to place via Uber, the Subway, and her own two feet, making the infamous “Freshman Fifteen”—the fifteen pounds that college freshmen are said to gain—not an issue.  NYC students also have access to activities unavailable elsewhere. Childs has even gone to an event where famous model Gigi Hadid was present in full glamour for free.

However, looking out at skyscrapers from your dorm room comes with a price. “I’ve only been here for a few weeks and I’m already broke,” Childs joked. A notoriously high cost of living makes NYC an expensive college playground.

BHS grad Zack Brooks attends Suffolk University in downtown Boston.  Like Fordham, Suffolk is blended into the city and does not have the centralized, isolated atmosphere that many suburban and rural colleges have. “As soon as I step out of my dorm, I don’t feel like I’m at Suffolk anymore. I’m in Boston,” he said.

Brooks, who studies Environmental Studies, intends to reap the benefits of the internship opportunities that Boston, like New York city, offers. “The Nature Conservancy, EPA, and lots of other government agencies and nonprofits all have offices here. They all need Environmental Studies interns,” he explained.

Suffolk, which has about 5,500 undergraduates, is the perfect size for Brooks.  “I didn’t want to go to a UMass. I wanted to be known by a name rather than a number. I wanted to have more of a one-on-one experience,” he said.

However, he wouldn’t describe the community as “tight-knit,” saying, “I have a close group of friends, but I’ll admit, it’s hard to meet people.” He further explained that the lifestyle at Suffolk is so “independent” that people spend time floating through downtown Boston and not meshing on the campus itself.

Maggie McNulty, former Insight Editor-in-Chief and Childs’ partner in crime, also chose a Boston school: Emerson College. However, Emerson is not a university; rather, it is an “institution in higher education devoted to communication and the arts in a liberal arts context,” according to its website.  That means that students are unable to study disciplines like Law and Medicine at Emerson, but those looking for careers in areas such as Journalism and the Performing Arts will find a niche perfectly tailored to their interests.

McNulty, an aspiring screenwriter, chose Emerson because it allowed her to start pursuing her passions right away. “I went through all of high school feeling like I was taking courses just to check off boxes. I felt like I was ready to jump into what I’ve always wanted to do,” she said. She also noted that the AP courses she took at Barnstable satisfied some of her core requirements, allowing her to start her major-specific courses early on.

Although McNulty has formed new relationships with people in her major, she has still kept in touch with high school friends by visiting them at their schools, including Harvard, Boston University, Simmons, and more. She agrees with Brooks that colleges in Boston tend not to have enclosed campus spaces. “We don’t have a quad. Boston Common is our quad,” McNulty attested.

Ariel Sampou chose Green Mountain College in Poultney, Vermont. It is a very small school—at around 600 undergrads, it’s a fraction of the size of the Barnstable.

For Sampou, the school’s low carbon footprint was a pull factor. “I wanted a school with a liberal environmental focus,” she explained. She also loves the outdoor activities, which include rock climbing, whitewater rafting, camping, hiking and backpacking, biking, and horseback riding. For those who love spending time in the New England wilderness, a school like Green Mountain College could be an idyllic place to study.

Although she likes having a close-knit community, she does bemoan the lack of anonymity. “Everyone knows everyone else’s business. It’s actually kinda creepy,” she said. She also cited the college’s limited resources as a drawback. “I’m an Art student. Since we’re so small, the students have to buy their own supplies. The nearest art store is half an hour away.”

Harrison West-Mather is an Economics major at UMass Amherst. As a large campus with over 22,000 undergraduates, this school offers lots of research and internship opportunities to students in just about any field.

UMass Amherst is one of the most popular schools for Barnstable graduates, so it’s ideal for keeping in touch with some of your closest friends. “I hang out with kids from Barnstable every single day, but there are lots of other people to choose from,” West-Mather said. “Just walking around, you’ll see lots of people you know.”

West-Mather likes the distance between UMass Amherst and Cape Cod. “It’s far away enough that it feels new, but it’s not so far away that it’s a burden on my parents,” he explained. It’s also an economical option; the in-state tuition, combined with the John and Abigail Adams Scholarship, makes it and other state schools very affordable to Massachusetts students.

In his free time, West-Mather enjoys tailgating, playing intramural basketball and volleyball, visiting the well-equipped Rec Center, and hanging out with his friends.

To reach her college—the University of Mississippi, more commonly referred to as “Ole Miss”—Journalism major and Insight alum Katie Wasierski would have to drive over 20 hours if traveling by car. She flew.

When asked why she made the daring choice to go to such a faraway school, Wasierski said, “I didn’t wanna be typical.” She has succeeded in that goal; as a New England girl, she is a minority at Ole Miss. “There are lots of people from other places, but most people are from Mississippi or Texas or Georgia,” she said. “It’s a very welcoming community though. Sometimes I get made fun of because of my accent, but that’s about it. I don’t get judged.”

Football definitely dominates the culture at Ole Miss. “There’s this place called ‘The Grove’ where you can see hundreds and hundreds of people tailgating during football games. It’s crazy,” she said. “Everybody goes to football games. People do it for the social aspect.”

Greek life is also quite prevalent among the 20,000 undergrads. “About 40% of students here are in fraternities or sororities. Basically only freshmen live in dorms; the rest get apartments or move into their Greek houses,” Wasierski explained.

The massive distance between Ole Miss and Cape Cod has its pros and cons.  While Wasierski enjoys the opportunity for a fresh start, she does suffer from homesickness occasionally. “It’s hard being so far away. On holidays like Columbus Day weekend I can’t come home,” she said.  Regardless, she likes the thrill. “It’s scary, but cool.”

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Barnstable High School's Award-Winning Student News Site
The College Experience