Choosing a college – the other side of the coin

To date, we have offered admission to more than 10,000 students for this fall. I’ve had conversations with a number of people about their decision to choose a university. Guidance around the college selection process will suggest to students to consider college and university features as size, major, reputation, options for internships or study abroad, location or cost. These features are quite important as finding good matches for students will lead to a “good fit” for students. 

Last week, I listened with interest to the Dean of our Graduate College and Vice President for Research, Dr. Domenico Grasso, who was a keynote speaker at a conference for Vermont school counselors and admissions personnel. He challenged the framework of considering only features, and encouraged students to consider the skills that they should attain while in college and choose a college or university based on which schools are best equipped to help develop these skills. Dr. Grasso summarized the hallmarks of a good education as one that ensures students gain the ability to:

  • Listen carefully
  • Think critically
  • Reason clearly
  • Solve problems creatively
  • Communicate effectively

What evidence have I found that UVM does a good job in helping students achieve these skills? This week, I listened to a recent UVM graduate present on her experience at UVM. She discussed why she chose UVM and what she gained from her UVM education. She summarized it into three themes (I am paraphrasing!) – the ability to be aware and understand the diverse world in which we live, to understand how to live efficiently and sustainably, and she gained the ability to find her voice meaning she not only developed strong communication skills but she also was able to identify and clarify her interests and passions that will benefit her in her career. UVM’s combination of integrating our foundation in liberals arts with the study of professional areas with a classroom experience that focused on writing and defending a point of view helps our students leave UVM with a set of skills critical to today’s ever-changing job market. In addition, the extensive opportunities in study abroad, research or internship as well as our well-developed student leadership and involvement opportunities supplement the classroom experience.

Dr. Grasso summarized his talk by combining the features that are often included in consideration during the college search and looking for the skills important to gain as an undergraduate by sharing that the bottom line in selecting a college boils down to these four questions:

  • Will I be inspired/nurtured and have a good time in college?
  • Will I find a job afterwards or be able to continue to graduate/professional school?
  • What distinguishes this school? Will I be proud to attend?
  • Can I afford it? Is is a good value?

While I feel strongly that UVM is uniquely qualified to help students meet these objectives, it is important for students to find that out for themselves. The best way to do that during the decision making process is to attend one of our admitted student visit days. Offered eight times during the next three months, these day-long programs will expose students to the staff and faculty in the college/school to which they have been admitted, an opportunity to tour the residence halls, time to meet with student financial services, and hear sessions on study abroad or academic support. Registration is available on-line. Note that registration for admitted student visit days does fill and students/parents are encouraged to register early. I also encourage families traveling from out-of-town to make hotel reservations quickly after registering for an ASV as hotel space can also fill during busy visit times.

I look forward to you getting to know the University of Vermont better over the next few months. It’s a special place!


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