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Colleges that Change Lives - reviews, experiences

Miss Mousie

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My son is currently a freshman at one of the ctcl. McDaniel in Maryland. He also applied to Clark is Massachusetts. He got into both. They were both generous with their aid. McDaniel a little more generous.

Granted, he is just a freshman but what he likes: for the most part his professors have been great and involved. They offer a lot of support to the first year students to help them adjust to college life. The small class size is important to him and he likes knowing his classmates.


What he doesn't like: the school is kind of in the middle of nowhere. There is a town and a shuttle to take you there. Everything is closed by a reasonable hour to adults, not so much college students. So no real night life.

The small size also means you can't really avoid some jerk who is making you miserable. It is inevitable that you will cross paths at least once.


This is funny to me because I grew up in that town when it was really, really in the middle of nowhere.  :)  Now when I go back to visit my parents, it seems like a "big" city to me.  My sister-in-law went to McDaniel and really liked it.


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Grrr ... I had this long response typed up and it got lost.  It won't even let me past my  saved response.


Anyway ...

I never took the Colleges That Change Lives book to be anything more than a "there is more to life than the Ivies and other big name universities.  Set prestige and name aside and take a look at what a small liberal arts college has to offer."


As someone who went to a large public university and survived, but did not thrive, this book was a lightning bolt of insight for me.  I had been caught up in prestige/name being the answer to getting ahead.  But CTCL opened my eyes to the major shortcomings of my own college education.  Although I am on the introverted side, I usually didn't have too much trouble with teachers.  But, I was totally intimidated by my college professors who barely made eye contact with their students, regularly blew off office hours, showed no interest in their undergrad students.  (And these were not large lecture hall classes with TA sections, but 30 kids with a math professor.)  When I screwed up the courage to go see a professor when I was struggling in a class (and he actually showed up for office hours), he told me that I didn't belong in his class and that I should go home and make babies!  This was the 80s so reporting it would only have gotten me in hot water, not the professor.  When I graduated, not one professor would have remembered my name, let alone have known me well enough to have written a letter of recommendation.  Looking back, I think I would have had a very different experience at a smaller school with an emphasis on getting to know the students. 


My oldest is a shy and very introverted kid.  He shines in one-on-one and small groups, but would never be the kinds to elbow his way to the front of the line for something.  We chose smaller schools in our area that had the type of biology program that he was interested in.  His final choice came down to one CTCL school and one that wasn't, but I think it was more due to the selectivity than anything else.  He chose Hope College due to their Honors Biology program where he got to do research his first year on campus.  He also had the opportunity to take advantage of 3 REUs, continue research during the school year, present a paper at a conference, TA for several freshman labs (assist the students while the prof taught the labs.)  He had plenty of professors who knew him well.  While that has not lead to him getting into grad school yet, but that has more to do with a special set of circumstances and issues with my kid rather than a condemnation of the school (which is the topic of a whiney, JAWM post rattling around in my brain.)  His life was definitely changed by his college experience in a positive way, but we are seeing some underlying issues that need to be addressed. 


We chose a similar path for our 2nd child.  I do regret the school we chose for K, Lawrence University.  While I don't think the school was the cause of K's mental health spiral, the school really did not live up to the CTCL mantra.  Profs didn't really know K or care whether or not they showed up for class.  I think the 2nd choice on K's list would have been better (the same CTCL-like school that my oldest was considering), if only for the fact that they were closer and it would have been easier to monitor the situation and be proactive.  I don't know if we could have prevented the massive downward spiral that has K at home on medical leave and not doing anything. 


For dd, who is much less of an introvert than her older siblings (so much so that our homeschooling community was too small and limiting for her and she is attending the public high school part-time.)  We are in the middle of the college search with her.  While she wants a bigger school, I am not crazy about the huge public university option.  She is more proactive and social, but she is still not one to aggressively pursue opportunities if she has to fight for them.  She sees the advantage of a CTCL-like school but is also looking at midsized schools. 



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