Vartabedian: Graduates Pursue Colleges of Their Choice

It’s that time of year when high school seniors are engaged in a host of rituals.

There’s final exams, the prom, graduation exercises, and wishing one another well as they venture forth toward the next journey of their lives.

For those matriculating to higher education, the selections can become mind-boggling. Which college do you choose?

Aside from a “Dear John” letter in the military, I cannot think of anything more disappointing than a rejection, especially to the university of one’s dreams. On the other hand, an acceptance letter is akin to hitting the lottery.

The joy of victory. The agony of defeat. It’s right there with one postage stamp. Truth be told, I did not attend the school of my choice. After perusing through the different brochures inside the guidance office and talking to my counselors, I had opted for a small school setting.

My selection was a cozy campus just outside Worcester called Nichols. The curriculum was attractive, not to mention the rural surroundings, limited enrollment, and the fact I’d be away from home and on my own. I was excited.

Of the five schools to which I applied, this was the first response and it arrived just as my expectations and hopes were brimming over. I showed the acceptance letter to my parents since they were paying and any debate was unwarranted.

Until the next letter arrived from Boston University. My parents were buoyant. I only applied because they wanted me to attend more of a name school, given my intended field of journalism. At the time, BU offered a prominent major.

“No questions asked,” said my father. “That is where you shall attend.”

My Dad’s reasoning was obvious. He would negate a dormitory expense and enlist my support in running the family luncheonette business, much as I had done through high school.

“It’s more appropriate to earn your education,” he philosophized. “We pay. You help.”

Devastated as I was, the man made sense. Nichols disappeared as quickly as it arrived, ready to be replaced by Boston University. As for the other schools, they were rejections. In no particular order, I had also applied to Bates, Colby, and Missouri. The latter was a long-shot with one of the best journalism programs in the country. It was more for bragging rights than anything else.

When my three children applied, we had made the rounds to various campuses. It was as mind-boggling as a journey across the Sahara. Which do you pursue?

What sold my daughter on Northeastern was the introduction of a journalism degree and becoming part of a groundbreaking curriculum. The cooperative program was an added inducement, putting work-study into the picture. The boys went with Tufts and Bentley—both high-intensity universities with broad tuition payments. All had applied to multiple schools with mixed results, even with impressive credentials.

Much as I wanted to open their letters when they arrived, the privilege was theirs even if the news was bad. And then, I didn’t care to see the look of disappointment in their eyes.

The thought of having two children in college simultaneously on a reporter’s and teacher’s salary was intimidating but we managed. In many cases, if tuition is a problem, they’ll find a way to get you situated.

A student I know applied to 11 schools, looking to capitalize on the odds. Never mind the application fees or the rigmarole. Or why anyone should apply outside of New England when we have some of the best schools in the country.

I don’t know if such records are kept but I would suspect it puts students and schools into a compromising position if more than one acceptance is received. It certainly complicates the enrollment juggernaut.

Because of hard economic times and people on tight budgets, state schools are gaining in popularity. A good alternative might be a community college for starters, then a transfer to a four-year institution. The savings would be magnanimous.

To get into a decent college these days, it’s necessary for a student to have good grades and test scores—and for parents to have good credit.

My advice to graduates as they play the game of musical colleges? Select the school that will accommodate your interest best, confer with your parents or perhaps a rich relative, apply for scholarship aid, and pursue a work-study initiative. Be aggressive and voice confidence.

But go somewhere, even if it’s a military fit.

And should you be one of those enterprising individuals who can raise enough money on your own to subsidize the cost of a degree, my congratulations. You probably don’t need any more education.

Tom Vartabedian

Tom Vartabedian

Tom Vartabedian is a retired journalist with the Haverhill Gazette, where he spent 40 years as an award-winning writer and photographer. He has volunteered his services for the past 46 years as a columnist and correspondent with the Armenian Weekly, where his pet project was the publication of a special issue of the AYF Olympics each September.
Tom Vartabedian

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