I am interested in majoring in [awesome social science] with a specialty of criminology. I’ve been looking at schools like [state flagship with top awesome social science program] and [overpriced NYC school with a reputation for poor financial aid] and other schools but I haven’t grown attached to any so some help would be fantastic.
I have some regulations about school and stuff and here is list the I have come up with:
1) I want to go to a big school with many opportunities. I realize that I will probably change my mind about my major and I want to make sure that if I do I have a lot of options to choose from.
2) I’d like to go to a school that does not require the SAT. I need to work my ACT score up (since it is only a 26 so far) and I don’t have time to study for that and have a job and school. I realize that already cancels out some schools but I’d rather work on ACT than SAT.
3) Out of state is totally a possibility. In fact I would really like to leave the state if I can.
Are these reasonable guidelines? What other advice do you have for me?
First off, the redacted state flagship school just happens to be one of the best places in the country for your proposed major. It may be your best option.
The emphasis in criminology limits your options considerably, but as that emphasis is generally is only taught in graduate programs or outside the major in interdisciplinary criminology courses, you may want to consider waiting to take those classes until after college, or perhaps over the summer at a different school. We don’t think you should apply only to programs that allow you to take a course in that emphasis.
In addition to big universities, you may want to look into smaller schools that are part of consortia. These often combine the best features of large universities and smaller schools. Some of the better known consortia schools are also generous with the financial aid.
We think that not taking the SAT is a big mistake for several reasons. The first is that your ACT score is good, but not great. It’s probably not going to earn you big money from schools desperate to have you– that may conflict with your regulation 4. #2 and I both did way better on the SAT than we did on the ACT (I don’t think I broke 28 on the ACT but got in the upper 700s on the SAT). Some people do better on one test vs. the other. The second reason is that reg 2 conflicts with reg 3. The ACT limits you geographically– it is much more popular in the midwest than in other regions. Third, you don’t have to send your scores to schools until after you’ve seen how you did if you’re worried about getting a low score. Fourth, if money for testing is a problem talk to your guidance counselor about getting financial help to take the test. Finally, remember that colleges will count your savings from job earnings at a higher rate than they will count your parents’ earnings. It may be a better use of time to study for the SAT than to have a job that first semester if it translates to more money for college. (Second semester you will have already turned in your FAFSA… senioritis ho!)
The actual cost of tuition may not be what is actually important if you are eligible for need-based aid. If your parents truly do not make a lot of money, you should be eligible for a lot of need-based financial aid. This aid often comes from the schools in the form of grants. Some schools have more resources to give this aid than others. As you are applying, find out how generous these schools, especially private schools, are. One of us went to a pricey private school and it cost her less than going to the state flagship because her parents made very little money and she got huge grants from the private school but only moderate grants from the cash-strapped state school. Her sister, otoh, went to a less generous private school and it cost more than the state flagship would have (said sister makes like a bazillion dollars now and loved college and didn’t drop out of her major like every female we know who went to the flagship in that major did, so it was probably a good choice… however, your proposed major is warm and fuzzy at the flagship).
So those are our thoughts on your guidelines. We’d like to open it up to the readers now– what advice would you give Sasha?