Michal Demeter Tvrdoň
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Choosing the Right University: Beyond Rankings and into the Heart of the Institution
When we consider choosing a college or university, the decision often revolves around factors like rankings, financial aid, location, research opportunities, and class sizes. It's a logical approach, but I'd like to share a personal story that underscores the importance of considering something more profound in your decision-making—the spirit of the institution.
But before we dive into that, let me transport you to last Thursday, an ordinary day that turned into an unforgettable adventure. My friends Mia and Astrid excitedly told me about an upcoming wilderness trip organized by the Dartmouth Outing Club. On a whim, I signed up, not truly expecting to be selected. Fast forward a week, and I received an email that changed my weekend plans. I was in. Despite having a mountain of work to catch up on, I embarked on a two-day journey with a group of mostly strangers into the New England Wilderness.
As an extreme extrovert, meeting new people has always given me energy. What astonished me was how quickly we bonded, the depth of our conversations, and the incredible coolness of my classmates. While I have friends at various institutions across the United States and around the world, there's something uniquely special about Dartmouth. And by special, I am not trying to euphemize Dartmouth's rural location; what makes Dartmouth is the spirit that defines it.
I recall conversations with high school friends about U.S. colleges, joking about how similar they all seemed. While I can't speak for every university, Dartmouth is different. It's not a perfect place, but even in these imperfections, you find professors who care deeply about your progress, sending you emails to check up on your well-being and reminding you about upcoming exams because they genuinely care.
Dartmouth possesses a spirit, and that spirit defines the entire institution. Every university has its unique spirit, which, in turn, defines the institution's culture. When I was applying for colleges, I didn't consider this factor at all. My university search primarily revolved around rankings and financial aid.
To be completely honest, I was scared after submitting my application to Dartmouth because I feared it didn't "feel" like the right choice. It made sense on paper, but I had yet to think deeply about what Dartmouth stood for.
Now, in hindsight, I'm thrilled I applied, and I consider myself fortunate that my Excel sheet put Dartmouth at the top of my list. The process of deciding on a university isn't solely about rankings. It's about you, the reader, deciding how you want to spend the next four or five years of your life. Moreover, it's about deciding who you want to become.
I'm not talking about your future job but rather the values you stand for and the kind of person you aspire to be. Beyond academics, your university experience will shape your character, the friends you make, the causes you fight for, and the principles you hold dear. So, when you're sifting through university brochures and application forms, remember to always be sustainable (jokes). Remember to always consider not just what they offer but who they inspire you to become. That, my friend, is the essence of finding the right university for you.
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