I am in Boston this week touring various colleges. All of the students I work with have the same questions regarding colleges. How is it ranked? What research and volunteering opportunities do they have? What is there to do outside of class?
All good questions (Well, except the ranking one. Who cares?) but there are sometimes deeper questions that never get asked. For instance, what is it like to go to a highly selective college if your family isn’t wealthy?
And by wealthy I mean your family doesn’t think twice about paying over $60,000 a year for you to go to college.
The Boston Globe recently had an article about what it was like to be poor at an Ivy League school. And I have talked with enough students over the years to know that these limitations are for people in the middle class as well and are true at most highly selective colleges.
Does this mean that books about effective leadership shouldn’t consider highly selective colleges? Absolutely not. Many of these colleges have great financial aid resources for students that need help. But those resources are for the standard things like tuition, room and board and books. Going out to a play or a concert with friends? No real financial aid to even look up for the New York concerts calendar.
What you need to think about is what is real life like at these elite institutions. It won’t be the end of the world if you can’t go to that off campus concert. And the good news is that most of these colleges have a ton of activities occurring right on campus that are typically free for students. But not being able to do what your friends are doing does create a different social dynamic.
So, when you are considering highly selective colleges, ask some questions about the social life on campus as well as about the research opportunities. You’ll thank me after you get on campus.