As the acceptance letters started coming around March of my high school senior year, my anxiety was replaced with excitement. I was privileged to have a few universities to choose from. When I was applying, I had one dream school - the University of Notre Dame. Coming from a tropical country, I imagined wearing knee high boots and coats in the winter of the Midwest. I was also fascinated by the campus architecture - halls with high ceilings and greenery that seemed to extend endlessly. Notre Dame was also ranked well, consistently within top 20. I knew it was famous for its football and for its focus on religion. I attended college representative sessions and gathered all the brochures I can.
Then the letter came - I was in. I was thrilled at the prospect of attending my dream school. However, I had a dilemma. Against all my expectations, I also got accepted into UC Berkeley. I did not really imagine myself there - it was in the West Coast and my high school guidance counselor told me that it was a “reach”. However, it was only an additional tick of the box in the UC application system. So there I was, faced with the best possible dilemma there is. Here were a few considerations that led me to decide which school to attend.
University of Notre Dame had a five year architecture program versus UC Berkeley’s four year track. Notre Dame’s architecture program had a year in Florence but given that I was already an international student, that did not really appeal to me. Berkeley’s program allowed for more electives which I appreciated as I wanted to explore more subjects.
Unfortunately, I did not get a financial aid package from either school so this was not a factor for me. But it is important to consider that it is wise to go for the school that would give you a hefty financial package.
While it might not seem relevant, the climate of a place can make a difference in your college experience. I was drawn to the vibrant Bay Area life over Indiana, which felt quite remote. Furthermore, I had relatives near Berkeley, which also became a factor for my decision.
I had the privilege of being able to visit both schools before I had to make a decision. In Notre Dame, I paired up with a girl from my hometown who gave me a tour of the campus. Everyone was very hospitable and the campus was beautiful. I had a meal at the hall which looked like a scene from Harry Potter. In Berkeley, I joined a campus tour and was amused at the Nobel Prize reserved parking slots.
At the end, I chose UC Berkeley because of its 4-year program and reputation in Asia. While Notre Dame was an amazing university, after visiting both, I felt that Berkeley would have been a better fit for me (and was a direct flight away from home!). Interestingly, I eventually met someone who was choosing between UC Berkeley and Notre Dame as well. He went for the latter and enjoyed his experience just as much. At the end, choosing a university is all about the fit. While it’s tempting to gravitate towards rankings and reputation - and I understand completely - you should attend one where you can leverage your skills and flourish not only academically but socially and emotionally as well.
I was lucky to have this dilemma, and owe it to the tutors and college admissions help I got. Helppo is an online English tutoring platform in Hong Kong. Founded in Colorado USA in 2016, Helppo will help you present your best possible self in that personal statement. We understand it is not easy to find affordable Native English Tutors in Hong Kong, therefore we offer a free trial lesson with our college admission staff.