Now that I had some time to myself, I started wondering about my ideal university. At the start of Year 12, I was almost definitely set to be going to the UK to study, but now, I'm actually leaning heavily towards universities in the US. This change of heart did not happen overnight — but after considering the fact that courses in the UK require you to select a certain major to pursue and makes it harder for you to change that path was less appealing than the freedom that the US universities offered.
I was especially intrigued by the notion of Liberal Arts colleges, where undergraduates in their first and second year are allowed to take a wide range of subjects to support the interdisciplinary nature of learning. Considering that at my current school, I was always given opportunities to take classes like theatre and foreign languages, I wanted to continue exploring my subsequent interests as well as the subject I would consider as my 'major'.
That still didn't narrow down the schools a lot, though. Then I was thinking about campus size, location and the student life there. I've always enjoyed actively participating in discussions and debates with fellow students about the topic we were learning. Especially in IB, most of my classes were very small with only five to eight people. This would be more realistic in classes that are not in the form of lectures — I've taken a similar form at the Stanford Summer Session camp for social psychology and while there were some interactions between students/instructor, there was not nearly enough to keep me engaged all the time. Perhaps that means I would need to search for universities that are not very big in size, to begin with, or their teaching style is more seminar or tutorial-based.
The location of the campus didn't strike me as being important until I realised that I would actually be living there for four years. I've grown so accustomed to the remote and quiet nature of Jeju that I would not be happy in a campus dropped in the middle of a metropolis. Sure, transport may be easier to find and there may be more to do, but I can do that in Seoul when I'm back home. During my school days, I would much prefer to have some peace and quiet in a secluded area with forests and mountains.
Then there was the whole notion of how the food would be (it's really important, you know!) or the absence of sororities and fraternities (to be honest, I'm a little scared of these) and the general facilities that are offered to students on campus. I also couldn't ignore the fact that I would be living in the dorms instead of a house outside of the campus, meaning that I had to look into what those looked like as well. There were so many things to consider — but I had a rather clear idea of what I was looking for in most cases. This made it easier for me to narrow down my top choices.
I actually do have a college in mind that fits in with most (if not all) of my hopes for an ideal university. When I sort of stumbled across it a few months ago, I've been attending information sessions, chatting to some current students, and talking about it with my University Guidance Counsellor. The number one reason why I've fallen in love with this school is the fact that in every information session or student chat, there are people who talk about their college experiences and every single one of their stories are unique. In other information sessions, students talk about the great big activities and opportunities that the school offers, which has already been explained by the admissions team. But I felt genuine excitement from every student I met, who talked about their life at the college.
If there had been five students, there would have also been five unique paths that they took. I'm sure other universities are similar, but the fact that I could see this in information sessions that are usually a little 'advert-like' for the school (which is completely understandable) most other times, I was very happy to notice this difference.
Oh well, I guess that's enough pondering for the day.