How I Chose The College I Went To


See Also: My CS Degree

@otter_weekend asks:

If you went to college, how did you decide which college to go to? I feel like so much of my decision was just based on vibes.

In my case, I went to Waterford Kamhlaba in eSwatini which was a United World College (UWC). One benefit of going to a UWC school is that if you graduate from a UWC, you’re entitled to the Shelby Davis Scholarship which gives you a full scholarship to various universities in the United States (including Ivy Leagues).

In the penultimate semester of high school, the school counselor got us together, sat us down, gave us a list of said colleges and told us the grades that’ll likely get you admitted. The counselor seemed scary given that he was the liason between Waterford and colleges, but he was actually very helpful and realistic. I was painfully average so I picked the following institutions, in order of preference:

  1. University of Florida
  2. University of Oklahoma
  3. Trinity College
  4. Wartburg College
  5. Westminster College
  6. Methodist University

I would have added the University of Michigan, but the counselor suggested I didn’t. I applied for those colleges, did my final exams and wait in anticipation for the results and decisions.

  • Wartburg gave me a place days after my complete application package was sent around Christmas. Would have been earlier, but the counselor said I had to clean up a space I used for an extracurricular.
  • Westminster accepted me a couple months later, albeit with a less generous offer than Wartburg.
  • Univeristy of Florida rejected me with a personal email.
  • University of Oklahoma took a long time to get back to me even as I constantly followed up. They eventually said no because there were so many UWC applicants that year. Ironic given that this was the university for failures (along with Westminster).
  • Trinity College was my last hope and they had a specific day and webpage you had to go to to get your application decision. I got an impersonal no.
  • Despite not finishing the application, I got the place at Methodist (the college with the lowest required scores) which not only had the full ride scholarship but it also offered me a flight to the university. I feel bad for ghosting the guy.

Trinity was my last hope and when that had failed after ghosting the lower colleges, the deadline to get the visa drew real close. Thankfully, Wartburg sent me the documents I needed for my visa without me asking for them so I picked them due to their promptness throughout and their relativley generous scholarship1. Though it wasn’t my first, second or third choice, Wartburg was alright given that I didn’t have to pay $200K to go, at which point it’s absolutley not #WorthIt, despite them trademarking that statement.

So there you have it. I went to Wartburg because they were super prompt in giving me a place suited for a painfully average student who didn’t have to pay to go there. If I had any advice for people picking their college, particularly UWC students, I’d say:

  1. Being able to afford the full sticker price of a university guarantees you a spot at most universities.
  2. College isn’t actually that expensive in the US since most people don’t pay the sticker price. The actual price is like half albeit with no scholarships.
  3. As a Davis scholar, you’re free money to universities. While Shelby technically covers half the cost with the other half “paid” by the college, the college’s “scholarship” is just a discount.
  4. Have some ambition, but be realistic, splitting between your targets and safety’s.
  5. Regardless of where you go, you practically learn the same stuff. Going to hackathons exposed me to a lot of CS students and we mostly took the same classes taught with the same text books. The main value is in the network you get at college. As much as I liked Wartburg and the midwestern hospitality, I’d never be classmates with the daugter of Xi Jingping there.
  6. As a UWC student, you’d have to try very hard to not get a scholarship. My sibling did poorly due to mental health issues and they’re still a Davis Scholar.
  7. If you aren’t Ivy material, pick a college that’s near a large metropolitan area or in a place you can tolerate. As I said, the education is roughly the same, so you might as well enjoy your time there.

This post was longer than I’d planned it to be, so I hope you got something out of it.

  1. They still made me pay taxes though the other places covered them. ↩︎