On Choosing the Right School for You For the Right Reasons

By: Joe Urbano

Campus Sherpa Blog Contributor, Rochester Institute of Technology

For some people, part of the so-called “college experience” is the culture of drinking, partying, and hooking up. That’s certainly not a problem, but just because others partake doesn’t mean that you have to when you get to school. Part of what makes college such an amazing experience is the ability to experiment with different social environments and lifestyles to find out what’s right for you. But say you’re already in a relationship. Are you missing out on part of that? Are you missing out on part of college?‘

Well, in short, maybe. As anyone would say, there’s very little black and white when it comes to relationships, so I can’t just outright say ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ But I can guide provide a few pointers and examples to perhaps give some more perspectives to consider, and today we’ll address the first of many points I want to cover: You shouldn’t pick a school for your partner.

There are a TON of factors in picking the right school – programs of study, financial aid, friends, proximity to home, and the like. This is something that is brutally difficult for some – the prospect of long distance relationships and being so far away from the person you love. But this is an ultimately critical choice. Your own personal happiness and success should be amplified by the school you attend, and yes, people are part of that. But having this happiness be dependent on a single person can easily lead to emotional dependence and an unhealthy relationship. And say the relationship goes sour. What do you have to fall back on? The reason why there are so many universities to choose from is because of the vastly different approaches some schools take, and finding the one that best works for you is so crazily important. I know that doesn’t make the decision any easier, but you should be choosing your school for you, not for your partner.

One of my closest friends here made the decision with his girlfriend to keep any information about the college search to themselves until a final decision had been made. He chose RIT and she chose Villanova. Ultimately, they both love their schools. She’s visited RIT twice and in talking with the two of them, they hate having the prospect of distance between them but they mutually agreed that career readiness is imperative to school choice. To them, distance is a scalable challenge in the grand scheme of life. If they were meant to be together, they can overcome even the greatest of obstacles.

Now, perhaps keeping college lists secret might be an extreme example, but I think the idea is actually a good implementation of my point. Perhaps you and your partner both have similar fields of study, and the same school is a real possibility. And I’m not trying to discourage that, I’m not saying that you should force yourself into a long distance relationship. But if you’re reading a Campus Sherpa blog like you’d have to be to be reading this, you know that there are so many more factors in picking the school that’s right for you.

RIT is a co-op school, which means that at this time next year, I’ll be in the middle of my 6-month stint at a corporation working in the field of chemical engineering. This process, as I am learning, is very similar to applying to college. In my co-op application process, distance from my girlfriend is a part of the consideration. If I can live at home, I can both save money by getting to keep the housing stipend that is provided by most employers, and I’d only be an hour away from her. But the current corporation I’ve been in talks with is 9 hours away from home in rural western Pennsylvania. It’s a job I would really love to have (manufacturing in high tech plants is very interesting) and the company seems like an absolutely wonderful place to work. So ultimately it’s looking like I might move from being 6 hours away to 9, which is not an easy decision to make. But if it comes to that, we’re both up for the challenge.

If you’re stuck between choosing between two schools because of a relationship, it’s important to not lose sight of your career goals. If both schools go punch-for- punch, then it might make sense to pick the one that suits your relationship. That’s likely not the case, sadly, so it’s important to keep some things in mind: choosing a school you don’t like for the sake of the person you love won’t make the college experience everything it’s supposed to be. Long distance is hard, but it’s not impossible.

Good luck!

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