16 Jan

The conclusion of high school often represents the closing of the first chapter in your story. At the same time, moreover, it is also the preparatory period for the commencement of a new journey in your life. This is a very exciting moment for many students, particularly because it marks the first greatest accomplishment and also presents a very crucial decision—where to attend college.

This, to many students, is perhaps the single largest decision of their young lifetime, because it will overlay the next three to five years of their life. Many factors go into this decision—what to study, where to live, costs of tuition, etc.—but most importantly students are asked who they want to become.

Where do you see yourself in the next five to ten years? This question has been inevitably brought up numerous times, but “where do you want to attend college?” compels students to brainstorm the beginning of the answer to that ever-essential question.

The college decision, of course, is viewed to a different extent by almost every graduating high schooler. Generally, students who have an idea of who they want to become will view the college choice as a critical decision. Meanwhile, other student who are still discovering their interests and passions (which is perfectly okay) will view the college choice as an opportunity to enter a new adventure anywhere.

Personally, I viewed the college decision through both perspectives. I knew where I wanted to be in the next five years—medical college—but I still was not certain on who I wanted to become. 

Hence, multiple factors went into my college decision, and, here, I wish to share my journey through my college search process and ultimately why I chose Berea College for my next educational journey.

The College Search Process

Graduating high school, I had received highest honors, earned several academic accolades, scored in the 90th percentile for the SAT (did not take ACT), and had been rewarded several scholarships for college tuition. 

However, I did not have an outstanding applicant resume; hence, most T-20 undergraduate institutions would be considered a “reach” school for me.

Another important note, I applied during the 2020-21 applicant cycle, which is the first admissions cycle that had to consider COVID-19 as a critical factor on student applications. This, I believe, introduced some crucial applicant features such as test-optional, COVID-19 supplement essay, and an increase in gap year slots, amongst various other details.

Nonetheless, my intentions going into the admissions cycle was to 1.) search for school’s with excellent internship opportunities, 2.) consider the most affordable colleges or bang-for-your-buck schools, 3.) and determine which institution may provide me with best pre-med experience.

This decision was very difficult and absorbed a lot of time, but my approach was to compile three lists—schools with best internship opportunities (or medical experiences), with best bang-for-your-buck feature, and for pre-med curriculums—and locate school’s at the intersection of these characteristics.

Advice: do extensive college searching during junior year of high school, this will save time for individual applications during senior year.

However, every time, no matter what filter I attempted to apply to the search, Harvard, Stanford, etc. were always at the top of each list. Very surprising, I thought. But after an grave search effort, I was finally able to compile this list of schools (in no particular order):

West Virginia University (In-state)

Marshall University (In-state)

Duke University

Case Western Reserve University

Berea College

Emery College

Swarthmore College

University of Miami

Note: In-state schools are inherently going to be much more affordable than those that are out of state. Also, school’s listed here are closer to the east to reduce any expected travel.

I received acceptance into every school (except Duke University), but due to factors such as travel, affordability, and variety of experiences, I narrowed down my list to West Virginia University and Berea College.

Here is a brief overview of the two institutions in regards to me as an applicant:

West Virginia University (Morgantown, WV) is an in-state, public, R1 research institute with Division I athletics, ~20,000 undergraduates, and ~$10,000 average cost after applied aid. WVU has the second best Forensic Science program in the world, has a diverse array of majors, minors, and certificates, and is popularly known to be a party school.

Berea College (Berea, KY) is an out-of-state, private, liberal arts school with Division III athletics, ~1,500 undergraduates, and ~$5,000 average cost after applied aid. BC has the second best RN program in Kentucky, offers a great, well-rounded curriculum, and is best known for its No Tuition promise scholarship and its Co-Operative Work Study program.

More will be discussed on my college decision in the following section.

Why I Chose Berea College

At the time it was a very close decision that could have went either way, but I ultimately decided to matriculate to Berea College. While the No Tuition Promise is often cited as the prominent reason for student’s college choice at BC, it was third for my multitude of reasons.

In applying to Berea College, my admissions counselor, Alicia Riley—who was a large part in facilitating my college transition—informed me of several pre-med internships such as the Vanderbilt Pipeline, the Aspirnaut program, and Medicine for the Greater Good. 

While every school has their own set of internship opportunities, what makes these experiences different is that they are, for the most part, funded by Berea College and are founded by unique institutional ties to the college. For example, the funding available for the Aspirnaut program is due to the Hal Moses/Aspirnaut/Berea College funds (Aspirnaut is a biomedical research program at Vanderbilt University Medical Center). Due to such extensive financial aid for these opportunities, internships experiences were my primary reason for choosing Berea College.

Secondly, I found the college’s Co-Operative Work Study program to be a very valuable experience for student career development during the four, or more, years of undergraduate study. The Co-Op program, moreover, is only available due to student financial need and, in a way, plays into the affordability feature of the college. Though, I was more attracted to the experiential aspect of the work study (Don’t get me wrong, I needed the affordability too!).

Then, of course, the No Tuition Promise, valued at $176,000 for the four years of study, which is possible through various generous donors, is another pinnacle reason for facilitating my college decision. The aid award essentially eliminated any prior concerns I ever had about paying for or affording a higher education. Genuinely, I can say I am the most appreciative for college’s allotted aid.

Personally, all three aspects of the college are critical reasons for facilitating my decision to attend Berea College. Though, as a pre-med student, the internship opportunities and Co-Op program were my two primary academic reasons for choosing BC. 

Other features of the college I highly adored are the personalized educational experience (10:1 student to faculty), the great diversity amongst the student body, the Internship and Career Development center, the natural beauty of the campus, the small town of Berea, and the well rounded liberal arts curriculum (which I didn’t previously think I’d like as much) amongst various other factors.

Conclusively, I honestly believe I made the right decision in enrolling to Berea College. My undergraduate years will be a great foundation for the building of my future,  

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