Happy New Year’s Eve! For high school seniors, this is especially poignant, since the year will mark your graduation and subsequent first months in college.
I ran into a high school senior at the Jewish Community Center yesterday, where we were both taking a ballet class. She asked me about Butler, and we spent the better part of an hour talking about colleges. As a college senior, I was surprised by how I could look back over four years and see the large sweep of events — how this aspect of the liberal arts was wonderful (physics class), how this part was really obnoxious (mixed-up degree plans). Thinking about colleges inspired me to create this list.
List of 6 Qualities You Should Consider When Deciding Where to Go For College and How Butler Relates to the Aforementioned Attributes:
1. Degree Plan
We attend college in the hopes of learning more about our areas of interest in the hopes of getting a job in the hopes of attaining some personal goal, whether it be personal fulfillment or world-changing innovation. So make sure the college you pick will let you take the classes you want.
Also, make sure the college is up to your caliber. You want to major in pharmacy or dance? Butler provides a challenging environment for both areas of study. I considered attending another college when I was a senior, but the brochure for their English Department contained typos and I was not overly impressed by the professionalism or talent of the dance department. Butler was different — it offered a solid English program in a liberal arts setting where I could concentrate on a high level of classical ballet.
2. The Food
Do you have dietary restrictions? Are you vegetarian? The first two years of study at Butler mandate your participation in a meal plan, and Butler isn’t the easiest place to be vegetarian. There are always options — but having visited my sister’s college, I must say that Butler really could not be considered a leader in environmental issues. This means vegetarians at Butler will be able to find something to eat, but they’ll have to work a lot harder than if they went to a place like Dickinson.
However, Butler is revamping its main dining hall in Atherton Union over this winter break. I also haven’t been on a meal plan for two years, so things might have changed. I know several people who are vegetarian, and they did just fine. Now, if you are vegan… not sure. I know the university has concentrated on this aspect of campus life, and they are trying to improve. Talk to the dining services if you have concerns.
These aren’t always the most fun aspects of a college to consider. Who wants to calculate how far into debt one will have slipped by the end of four-ish years? Cost should not be prohibitive, especially in terms of applying for college. After that acceptance letter, you can always discuss financial options with the Office of Admission and Financial Aid. Money sometimes equates reality, however, and a college decision might come down to cost. Sad but true.
Always dreamed of living in the Midwest, where the corn fields stretch across a very flat plain and one may spot windmills? (Windmills! I say. We don’t have those on the East Coast!) College offers the chance to see a new place, to live with snow or alligators or windmills. (Note: I’m exaggerating here. I don’t know of any windmills directly in the Indianapolis area, but the drive to Chicago has certainly/clearly left a great impression on me.)
A word on location: You should factor the cost of travel when looking at quality number three…
5. Teaching Style
This becomes extremely important for a dance major, though I’m not sure how much it applies to other disciplines. I’m sure there are connections, but I’m too lazy at the moment to seek them out.
Do you want to focus on classical ballet? Balanchine? Modern? A balance of the above? Butler’s first focus rests squarely on classical ballet, but the curriculum is wide enough with jazz, contemporary pas, theater dance, modern (no straight style, but taught by a former member of both Paul Taylor and Martha Graham’s company) (this professor is truly one of the gems of the dance department, corny as that may sound), and so on to create a versatile dancer.
6. Breadth of Study
Perhaps this is just my liberal arts background talking, but I think one of the pillars of higher learning is breadth of study. Concentration on a major all but guarantees depth, but the liberal arts mindset — a real liberal arts which both requires and inspires students to do more than brush past outside fields of study — provides context for the primary interest.
For example. The liberal arts requirements mandated I take a science course. A trick of the university scheduling offered PH 201 as a course which would fulfill that requirement. The opportunity to take a higher level science course and the requirement that I take at least five hours of science let me explore something completely different. If the class had not been mandated, I would never have taken it. If the classes that fulfilled the science requirement were not rigorous, I would never have gotten so much value out of those five credit hours. I acquired a deeper appreciation for the elegance and complexity of the world and rekindled my high school love of math as well as my long-time love of science.
Taking classes in physics might not be appealing if your only interest seems to be ballet. You might want only to dance, not to sit in a classroom memorizing names from dance history or singing solfege in a piano studio. The same applies to other areas of study at Butler. But Butler’s great strength does lie, I believe, in the liberal arts, and in the range of study it affords its students. Go for the liberal arts institutions. You’ll come out of four years knowing things you never expected to learn.
Who wants to receive exactly what one bargained for?