Jason - Univ. of Michigan - Class of 2013

student photo

The types of people on campus became surprisingly influential. The universities that ended up on my list had friendly, intelligent, and down-to-earth students and faculty.

At the beginning of the college application process I felt I was caught in a dense fog of biased college facts. Every day my e-mail was bombarded with college recruitment letters, each promoting different aspects of their college. Faced with so much information, I was unsure of what I really wanted in a college.

Hometown: Clinton NJ

High School: Public

GPA: 3.95 / 4.33 (weighted)

SAT: 2030

Major: Business

Goal: Become enthusiastically involved in campus life

College

Status

University of Michigan Attending
College of
William and Mary
Accepted
Cornell University Denied
Georgetown University Denied
Indiana University Bloomington Accepted
Purdue University Accepted
University of Maryland Accepted
University of NC
Chapel Hill
Waitlisted
Washington University in St. Louis Waitlisted
Freshman Year Update

There are sooo many opportunities in college. I love the respect and attention that I receive from employers, professors, and my peers. I joined a student-run consulting group and worked with an eco-friendly travel company. This semester they offered me a job and I have been working with them since January. Thanks to my connections with the Business School, there are even more internships on the horizon.

I have found the campus to be very large but also very small due to my groups of friends. I have met many great people in my residence hall and my business fraternity. Plus, the sports are amazing (even though they have been losing as of late), and there is always something going on.

Junior Year Update

My junior year was one of my busiest yet. My typical week might include attending a dozen classes, consulting for Domino's Pizza, visiting friends in Chicago, drinking beers with friends, and working on several group projects. As a business major, I also took part in over a dozen summer job recruiting events and interviews. This felt comparable to an entire semester's worth of work! However, this led to several job offers, which brought back feelings of "senioritis" from high school. Sports-wise, our football team played in the New Orleans Sugar Bowl and beat Virginia Tech with a 37-yard field goal in overtime! At a campus like this, it's easy to become involved in too much at the college because there are so many exciting things happening!

Senior Year Update

Senior year started with job recruiting in the business school. I interviewed with several consulting and startup companies and accepted a job with a marketing consulting firm in Chicago, where I will start in August. I graduated a semester early and am working part-time with some local startups and going to a lot of Michigan sports events. I've also launched a startup with two friends called A2 Cribs that aggregates local housing listings.

U-Michigan is awesome, and I would recommend it to anyone. Just be cognizant of college costs because they add up fast. I was fortunate to graduate with only $22,000 in debt (which I will be able to pay off in two years). Don't take out too much in loans—it's not worth it.

Does fame guarantee a good fit? Not so much.

My first dilemma in picking colleges was the name recognition. I honestly didn't want to attend some obscure college. Instead, I wanted a college with a legacy, a history, and a name people would recognize and respect. I used college ranking sites such as Princeton Review and U.S. News and World Report to find 20 such schools with strong business curriculums.

Then I reviewed each of the schools in more detail, focusing on the median salary for graduating students, the quality of teaching and facilities, and the average cost to attend the school. I compared all three categories to get a feel for which colleges offered the best yield for the cost. I also considered the quality of job offers to graduates by looking at college ratings compiled by corporate recruiters. Finally, I chose a few schools simply because it was easy to apply to them using the Common Application.

After I started talking to current college students, however, I realized that what those students told me about the college was far more important than the fame of the college. After this enlightenment, I seriously took note of the cultural aspects of each college, such as night life, sports programs, extracurricular involvement, and the overall feeling on the campus. The college track record of providing financial aid was also important.

Who's on campus? People become important.

As the application process progressed, the types of people on campus became surprisingly influential. At some "elite" colleges, I was actually annoyed by the lack of humility people showed when talking about their university. The universities that ended up on my list had extremely friendly, intelligent, and down-to-earth students and faculty.

In the end I chose the University of Michigan because the college offered a prestigious business school coupled with great sports teams and an active and innovative student body. Almost all the students were strongly involved in the activities on campus. The school has a large and diverse student body, which means more opportunities to fit in with a group of kids that have the same interests as me. I was disappointed not to get into Washington University in St. Louis and University of North Carolina, but getting a rejection was just the closure of one path among many that could help me reach my goals.

My ups and downs

The essays—they were brutal. Many of the applications required two or three essays and each question was so unique that it was hard to adapt an essay from one application to another. The essay process became even more difficult for me because I had no favorite college, so I had to treat each essay with much consideration and effort.

The tedious process of submitting countless applications was comparable to running a marathon. I took great pride in knowing that I had done the most possible for each application.

What I learned

My advice to applicants is not to join a bunch of activities just to list on your application. Instead, focus on highlighting a few key activities that you were involved in. Colleges are seeking unique people with strong academic backgrounds and, more importantly, distinctive accomplishments that separate them from the pack. I was very dedicated to Scouting and achieved the rank of Eagle Scout. Having such a significant activity on my resume was a great interview starter. The achievement was influential in many of the essays I wrote.

The money factor

I chose to apply to many public schools because I could get a great education at a reasonable cost. However, even for public schools, the out-of-state costs are extremely high. I applied for numerous scholarships to compensate for the high admission costs. But at this point I have only received a couple thousand dollars. Aside from federal loans, I will rely on my family to pay for a portion of college. The rest of the money will come from some other type of loan. Most likely I will leave college with up to $30,000 in loans.

Free Newsletters

On the road to college? Make it easier with timely tips and expert advice - free. Find out more.

Sign up today!