Season 3: Episode 14 Transcript
Academic Lessons from the First Year of College
From Hanover, New Hampshire, I'm Lee Coffin, Dartmouth's Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid. Welcome to the Admissions Beat.
We are in the home stretch. If this were a baseball game, it'd be top of the ninth. If this were a soccer match, we'd be nearing the point where the whistle blows and the game is over. And what I mean is, seniors, you have days to make a decision, a big decision, about where you are going to enroll. May 1st, the national candidates reply date, is next week. That means by midnight you need to have put down an enrollment commitment somewhere. Some of you have already done it; you had an epiphany at some point along the way, and you know what sweatshirt you're wearing, what sticker is on the back of your backpack. But for some of you, a surprisingly big number of you, you're still thinking. And if this year is like so many years, you're overthinking, and you're using every second you have to wrap your arms around this big final decision.
So this week, rather than a conversation with a guest or two, it's just me. And I am going to share with you an essay I wrote a few years ago that I think will offer some wisdom in this final moment of your college search. I'll be right back.
Ready or not, the candidates' reply date has snuck up on us, and it's time to call the question: where will you enroll? As I chatted with seniors and their parents over the last few weeks, on my campus, on the road, online, most reported the choice was narrowed to two or three options. "How do I pick?" was a frequent refrain. It's a fair question, and I'm guessing those whose enrollment remains pending at this late hour are wondering the same thing as the clock ticks down to May 1st. Tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock. It's like you can't sleep and you're watching the night slip away, and you have to give up at six o'clock.
As a college applicant, you've spent the last year in analytical mode. You've assessed and studied the various colleges and universities that made up your list into which you decided to apply, and ultimately to the ones that offered you admission. Any detail about a college that could be measured has been measured. Trust me on that one. I'd argue that a college shouldn't be among your final options in the latter part of April if it lacks the academic programs, the faculty, the resources, and the opportunities you seek. Similarly, if affordability is your determining factor, the numbers you need to make an informed decision should be known to you by now. But if these numbers are fuzzy or they're not known to you by now, please call the financial aid office immediately. Stop listening to this podcast, pick up the phone and call. Ask for their guidance on this matter. Affording your undergraduate experience is a paramount question.
So this piece of data deserves your full attention over the remaining time you have. If the question of affordability has been asked and answered, you have all the data you need to collect, you have all the data you can collect. Enter your heart. The emotional element of your college search counts too, maybe now more than at any moment in this journey of discovery. The analysis of facts and figures guided you to this penultimate moment of choice. Your pros and cons list can only get you so far. Your heart whispers, "Can I see myself here?" Your gut says, "Can I see myself here?" Maybe there are some butterflies swirling around your being when you think about one place. That one place may not be "the best place you got into" by some outside measure, this is your choice. These voices that only you can hear are counseling you to imagine institutional fit, to own the place and to own the experience it offers.
What's the vibe? Does it feel comfortable to you? Will you thrive in its environment? Can you imagine yourself being happy? Do the people you've met feel like peers and mentors? Does the place seem exciting? Does it seem like it's an adventure? Can you imagine going back and forth from home to there over the next four years? Those are not insignificant questions. Each is deeply personal, and that's why it feels challenging. It's a big decision. Remember, there is not a correct or an incorrect decision, just the one you make for yourself. Own your instinct. Be true to what's important to you. What's your inner voice advising you? Listen to it. As you reach the finish line of your college search and wherever it leads you, whatever sweatshirt you ultimately pull on, know that it's your choice, it's a good fit, and embrace it. God's speed over these next few days.
Right now, this is Lee Coffin from Dartmouth College, I will see you next week for the season finale of the Admissions Beat. Thanks for listening.