53 – Montana to Maine: Alexandra Lin’s College Admissions Journey

Today I’m joined by Alexandra Lin, an incoming freshman at Bowdoin College. She grew up in rural Montana. On today’s episode, we talk about what it was like to grow up and go to school in a rural area and the importance of geographic diversity in college admissions. Then, we talk about prestige and how it might not be as important as everyone makes it out to be. Stay tuned till the end for some tea about frats at Columbia and a little food fight…

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Show Notes:


Grinnell Hack by Bitcoin

Swarthmore Sexual Assault

Frat Sexual Assault Statistics

Columbia Frat Incident


Thanks to Redaf for the Guitar Sound Effect licensed under CC BY 3.0.

Michael:             Welcome back to the Admissions Uncovered podcast. It’s the college admissions podcast for the students by the students. Today we’ll be talking to a friend I met over at reddit applying to college sub reddit, my friend Alexandra. We’ll be talking about her college admissions journey, where she grew up and how that affected it and also her decision of school. She is going to Bowdoin next year up in Maine. So Alexandra, why don’t you introduce yourself for the listeners.

Alexandra:          Hi, I’m Alexandra Lin. I’m from Missoula, Montana and I’m a graduate. I’m an incoming freshman at Bowdoin college. Do you want to start talking about my admissions process?

Michael:             Yeah. Why don’t you tell the viewers where you’re from because when you told me I was very, I don’t know, I thought it was cool.

Alexandra:          Yeah, so I’m from Missoula, Montana and I go to big sky high school, which is a great high school, but sadly doesn’t have that high of a college entrance rates. I think it’s about 25 30% this year and very few people leave this state. It’s not really that type of type of school. And I think that my school, like a lot of schools in rural rural areas in America kind of represent the divide between education. I think that it’s really easy to see college admissions through a very specific lens, like through elite colleges. But there are so many other applicants we’re going to different schools. So I’m actually one of the only 20 people of my graduating class of 300 people to leaving the state, which is pretty, pretty interesting.

Michael:             Yeah. You know, I grew up in the suburbs of Dallas, so very similar type of experience where most of the kids were just going to in state schools, um, in state public school, sometimes in state private schools, but staying fairly local if anything venturing out to like Austin instead of Dallas, which is, I’ll be frank, not that crazy of a, of a difference. So I definitely understand that, that feeling of most kids staying in state, did that give you any pressure to maybe not apply out of state? Do you feel like?

Alexandra:          So at first I was wondering like, Oh, maybe I should just stay in state. It’s more affordable. The education’s good. And I think especially the fear of leaving home and going somewhere so different. I’m luckily mains actually kind of similar to Montana so it’s not, won’t be too bad, but I think that it’s really easy to get caught up in the fear of leaving and not be looking to seek new experiences. I’m am pretty excited about leaving. I’m actually, weirdly enough, I’m going to be the third person from my high school to be going a burden. There’s another girl who’s a sophomore there. They went to my high school.

Michael:             So you already know people there. That’s amazing. Yeah. Um, so do you know of people at your high school who maybe could have gotten to some of the schools you got into some of the out of state schools that you got into but just didn’t apply because they just thought, I’ll just stay in Montana.

Alexandra:          So actually there is my really good friend. Um, she was low. She is pretty low income. She applied early to Barnard and she had like pretty good stats, but she had a really tragic backstory. Like her mom was like, um, um, meth addict and her dad was unemployed and yeah, and she had like nine siblings. And I think that the difficulty is that when, like my high school was 50% free and reduced lunch, a lot of people are low income. I think that when you’re dealing with situations like that, like many people who live in just average rural America who are low income, that’s not necessarily leaving the state, but leaving behind responsibilities that I think that people are really like feel responsible and she’s great. Um, and she, I think that she, uh, she got in but she ended up choosing, she had to withdraw her offer or like withdraw her early decision acceptance or something like that.

Alexandra:          And she’s going to human, she’s going to University of Montana next year. I mean, I think that for her, she like had to make a lot of decisions about like her family and where she needed to do. But I think that it’s sad that people have to make those decisions. I think it definitely showed me a different side of the admissions process that for some people like going to school, like Barner to going to a school like Columbia really does make a difference in someone’s life and it’s kind of disappointing when they’re not able to take those opportunities. So we should be lucky people who are going to school like we should all be very appreciative.

Michael:             Yeah, absolutely. But you know, I think that speaks to one of the big under focused areas when it comes to thinking about diversity in college admissions because the, you know, the thing is like conservatives get all riled up about race and affirmative action and I think there’s like a reasonable debate to be had there. I obviously have an opinion that affirmative action race is a good thing, but I think it is also very, very true that there are so many other aspects of diversity that kind of get papered over or ignored. And the rural urban thing is definitely one of them, I think. I think one of the things that maybe it’s just me and where I grew up is that whenever I thought poverty, I never really thought of rural America. Right. I, I think the picture that comes to mind for perhaps not the best reasons is like urban areas, city areas, downtown areas when in fact there is plenty of poverty and plenty of like need in rural areas as well.

Alexandra:          So actually I did my senior project on rural poverty because I’m really interested in public transportation and interesting and the Aaliyah enough like a lot of the people who are like low income in the area. Like the reason why is because of the lack of jobs and the way that our economy is shifting. And I think that the difficulty is that as it occurs, like a lot of brain drain really does happen. Like the best and the brightest of our state always do leave and very few very it like often like not very often then they come back. So I think that we have to like kind of incentivize people just feel like also come back to the rural areas and and so like you were saying with diversity, I think that the difficulty is is that it’s really difficult I think to find an applicant who is really spectacular from rural areas.

Alexandra:          Like I never heard of the sat twos until the end of my junior year right before I couldn’t take them anymore. Like things like in town or like the you as Bo or all these types of like things that people at other schools, that’s just like a known thing. I had no idea. And so luckily like the Internet and things like Reddit and college confidential, we’re really helpful tools. But I know like now it’s really difficult I think to have access to that one. A school’s culture really isn’t that. It really isn’t geared towards that type of school. Yeah. Or just that type of atmosphere I have of student.

Michael:             No, I think that’s so, so, so true. Right. Because one of the things I think admissions officer say about holistic admissions is that you know, less than taking context, the whole applicant, which you know, lets them take into account other factors. And to some extent I think that’s true, but what holistic admissions to me has become, is a real emphasis on extracurricular activities, which can be as like racialized and as stratified on class lines as the sat. Right? Like I have not heard of any public school with a horseback riding program. Right? Yeah. For like that’s a thing.

Alexandra:          I mean in Montana you never know,

Michael:             but like the only schools I’ve heard those calves like have those programs or you know your Exeter’s you’re kind of like big name boarding schools and you know like there are activities I did in school like debate that if I didn’t have as much, you know, if I didn’t have parents who had like the resources that we do, like I could not have done or I could not have done it successfully. So I definitely think that’s true. Like there’s so many things that we just take for granted as things that make the system more fair that might actually not do it. And so when it comes to you know, extra curriculars in rural activities, in your experience did you just see less of the big name things? Like what were, what were some of the common extra curriculars at your school? Cool.

Alexandra:          I think that for me, I think that a lot of the extracurricular differences is that a lot of the people that I know core going to vote and or like elite schools next year, a lot of their extracurriculars were like suggest to them by college admissions counselors. So a lot of times it would be like things out of school. Whereas like at my high school, no one does any extra care credit killers out of school. Like a lot of people just expect like, oh I do national honors society or I’m in debate in a viral thought, I’m going to get into Harvard if I have a 4.0 and a 1600 on the sat. I think that people don’t really understand the difficulty and like the type of competition that they’re really dealing with. Um, and I think that, I mean I also, if we’re talking about holistic admissions, I totally agree with you.

Alexandra:          I actually had a pretty low GPA so I was pretty surprised when I got into a lot of selective universities. And I do think that a lot of people have been saying like, oh, affirmative action. But I do think that sadly, like I think I benefited from affirmative action in a different manner. I think that there is like geographic affirmative action. So I think they really do the good people not only in the context of their race but also I think of their region and they know like also I think that when people are making arguments about it, I think that they also have to think about that as well.

Michael:             Yeah. And you know, I think, I think you’re right, right? Like, I think because one of the statistics schools love to brag about, as you know, we have a student from every single state in the union and a student from 102 countries throughout the entire world. Like they love to throw around those, those numbers. And so if they’d like to throw them around, that means they value geographic diversity too. In my view, at least. That’s a perfectly reasonable thing to do. These, I do think my college experience would be worse if I was in a classroom with only like Asian kids and, and like white kids, right? Like that’s my view on race based affirmative action. And I think it would also be substantially worse if I was only in a classroom with kids from New York, Texas and California. Um, or, or you know, the, the big states, right? Like I think, I think all the reasons why all the things we’ve talked about, about how there is a difference between going to a school in a rural area and go, going to school in an urban or a suburban context means it’s just so important to have students from other backgrounds, whether it’s racial backgrounds but also geographic backgrounds.

Alexandra:          Yeah, totally agree. I think that’s something that we really need to think about when I think that. I just need to think about when we think about what diversity really means, like you were saying before.

Michael:             Yeah. So I did want to ask you one more question about growing up kind of in a rural area. You know, obviously like transportation is very hard. Were there other difficulties that you saw in living in a rural area that might’ve affected know your high school education or your college admissions process?

Alexandra:          So yeah, so when I was a junior I was looking for act tutoring and there actually isn’t any act tutor. There aren’t any act tutors like within an hour range. And so, so it was really difficult because at first I just really didn’t know what to do. And so like luckily I had to tutor myself and teach myself and I ended up doing pretty well. But I think that just trying to, it’s it’s, it’s saying one thing like it’s one thing to like, oh you can’t afford to get an AC teacher, but it’s nothing that you can’t even get one if you cannot afford to have one. I mean it’s a totally different thing and I think that it’s difficult because a lot of the extracurriculars that I know of, like a lot of my friends do, like we have to kind of make our own extracurriculars if we really want us to stretch ourselves and leave our comfort zones.

Alexandra:          I think that’s something that a lot of people, I think that’s, I mean it’s actually really beneficial about living in a rural area and growing up there that like, I know for me there weren’t, I didn’t feel really challenged by the things that I was doing outside of school. I’m like the programs that already existed. So I just was able to like start my own and do my own things and really have that freedom because Oh, I think in Montana there isn’t as much scrutiny. They don’t have any people. Like if you really want to do something you can do it. Like luckily I was able to like work with the city planning department and like we were able to like read route the transit like transit lines make it more equitable for income. And I know that if I lived in New York that would never be an APP.

Alexandra:          Like that would never be something I could do. And like I got to make a documentary about the um, cities like land usage like and how they use phytoremediation and I got all these like special privileges and I got to go film and I got to go with like the dean of the University of Montana. Like I think that if I was from New York or if I was from Texas or California, a lot of those opportunities that I think you can, you can have in Montana, you can’t have in other places. I mean that goes from the other states like North Dakota, South Dakota. But there is something to be said for growing up in a rural area like that. And I mean, of course it’s also really good.

Michael:             Pretty sure. Um, and I guess that’s kind of this month the impression I get of small towns, right? It’s small enough that everybody knows each other by first name. Like if you go to church, it’s like 10 people in a room. Um, and maybe that’s too idyllic, have a view. But I think there definitely is something to, you know, growing up in a small town and the type of community that involves versus growing up in a massive city where you don’t even know the people living on in your apartment building, let alone the people you know in the building next to you or something like that.

Alexandra:          I think that the one thing that it does do is I think it does instill a deeper sense of community. So I feel really strongly about like the issues that face my community. But I know a lot of people who live in more urban areas. I don’t think they have that same connection to the community just because they don’t really interact with the people on a daily basis for the people who realize their neighbors because they don’t know who they are. It’s really important. I think that’s like a value that that’s like something like that when college or stating like, oh we have 50 ever 50 like one person from all 50 states. That’s another thing you have to think about is that growing up in a tight, close, tight knit community like you really do have any different sense of like what that means and I think when you go to a college campus, I think you can definitely see that. Yeah.

Michael:             I definitely want to get into maybe how your background as someone who grew up in small towns affected your choice of college, but before we move on from like your background as a rural student, I was wondering if you had any resources for rural students specifically or just resources that you found helpful through the college admissions process.

Alexandra:          So, yeah, I had a lot, oh I want, um, three sort of. So there was, I got, luckily like I had help from a local lady who does like college admissions. She does like I’m a sliding scale of financial. So like my family was like really expensive and so I didn’t know that. But college admissions counselors, some of them do like sliding scale and so some people do it pro bono. So that was something really interesting that like that people, if you’re low income you can have access to um, like college admissions counselors aren’t necessarily on the people who are really rich. And then, um, also like applying to college and college confidential or really helpful resources I think. I think especially just looking at new schools, like I never knew that like schools like Pomona or Claremont Mckenna Bowden even existed before. Like going on those forums and reading about like what type of different types of schools are. And I think that also just the Internet, we’re in the information golden age and like colleges and so many institutions and have so much information available. You just have to like be willing to like go and try to find it.

Michael:             Oh for sure. I definitely agree and I also think the great thing about Reddit and college confidential is you know like it’s a little bit weird and toxic sometimes and especially with the chance me’s where you have like the perfect student and the kid in the competence like Eh, maybe you have a chance for like this school and it’s like okay, sure. But I think there is

Alexandra:          everyone was wrong about, I think that a lot of the difficulty with the chance means is that when high schoolers are like grading, other high schoolers are like making comments ivy, let’s just like the blind leading the blind. Like how much do you really know about someone else’s application? Because if you knew that much then you would think you would have already gotten in your before. Something like that. I think it’s impossible. I think that also that the worst part is that people don’t know other people’s backgrounds. Like you don’t know everything about their lives. Like you don’t know what their parents’ occupations where you don’t know what like household situation they grew up and they could have been like in an abusive household, they could’ve been fostered. She kids like that totally changes the context of their application and it doesn’t really shine through on the Internet. And I feel like it’s really unfair to like make really rude statements on people. Oh, you’ll never get into x, Y, Z, but you don’t really know that person. You don’t know how they interview. I don’t feel like it’s fair to make those judgment statements about people without really ever knowing them.

Michael:             Yeah. And particularly just like, I think there’s like this phenomenon when you have pure grading happen that we always grade each other’s papers or homework assignments harder than the teacher would. Um, and you know, I don’t know why, whether that’s like hyper competitiveness or just like an inability to think about judging other people. But I would like, I loved Reddit and, and college confidential because it was a community of people who like me, were thinking about applying to a lot of these same schools. My school, I was the only one who applied to like the big name Ivs. Um, so like it felt good to know other people even if it was only through the Internet who are doing the same but you know, stay calm if you’re chance me, you know, it doesn’t go well.

Alexandra:          Yeah. Having that community is a really nice feeling to like have that comradery, especially when you’re going through like really stressful times. I think that really does make a difference.

Michael:             One Plug I want to give for an organization that can help you if you’re low income and from a rural area is matriculate. Um, I’m a volunteer with it and basically what happens is matriculate cares, high school seniors with college students and the college students kind of like mentor the high school students through the college admissions process. And so it’s mainly geared toward low income people or people from rural and underserved areas. So if you think you might be interested, the website is matriculate.org so head over there and I think the applications for high school students who are still open. So if you’re going to be a high school senior, I think there’s still time to, to sign up. But with that I wanted to transition over to your choice of school and how you got there. So can you tell me a little bit about your college decision process and what you were thinking through it?

Alexandra:          So should I tell about my like um, my like profile and stats, let’s do that. So I had a pretty low GPA. I think I had a 3.7 unweighted and I think I had a 3.0 my freshman year. So that was like pretty low. A lot of people like told me, Oh that’s such a bad GPA. And I did why I had like a 34 on the act. But I think that when I went into the college application process, I was just like, I’m going to apply to an enormous amount of schools because I had no idea what was going to happen. And so I think I applied to like 30 and I applied to too many schools and I got and I think that like my results were really, I was really surprised by like where I got in, where I didn’t get in. So I originally really wanted to go to Brown.

Alexandra:          So I apply there early decision and I got deferred and then I just waited. And then I applied to like too many schools, regular decision. So I ended up getting all my decisions back and I was choosing between Bowden, uh, Claremont Mckenna, uh, Carlton Wellesley and I ended up getting off the wait list at Stanford. So I was choosing between those schools when I was choosing between like a large scholarship at Nyu. And I think the reason why I ended up choosing Bowden was just because I got, I got a merit scholarship to go to Boone. But also I think that when it comes down to it, like I think that the rankings and all like the idea of what prestigious I think is really relative to the person. So at my school, Boden is like more prestigious than Harvard because we already have similar, who’s going there.

Alexandra:          It’s like she was the Valedictorian, like a very big deal at our school. And so I guess that it was really interesting because a lot of the schools that I thought would be like, oh, more prestigious. I think that it’s really relative and that’s really interesting. Um, but also I think that go really like choosing the community where you feel most comfortable. So when I got into all these schools, my, I think my parents were like, oh, she’s 100% going to go to Wellesley. I’ve always been really active in like women’s rights issues. Yeah. And I like, I was really loved my Wellesley interviewer and I love Hillary, like Ron [inaudible] a great, got a great financial aid package. And I was really like, and when I visited I just didn’t think that it was a good fit. I think that a lot of people would say like, oh, she got into Stanford and she’s not going.

Alexandra:          And I think that in the end, I don’t really think it matters how prestigious the school is. I think it’s really about how it fits you as a person. And I really, I really love the outdoors. I love marine biology. Um, and I’m really excited. There’s so many great things about him that I’m so excited to get participated in terms of aid and I feel like I never felt that way about the other programs at different schools. And I think that that’s really when you know that you want to go to an institution. And also I love my interviewer who is absolutely great, funny story. I actually use my Boden interview as practice for my brother and review icls would it right before I use it as practice. And I thought it went horribly, but it ended up um, getting a response for her that like I was one of her favorite interviewees.

Alexandra:          We spent like 30 minutes talking about slime mold and we sat there for like two and a half hours talking about various change things. But I think that really shows that it’s not so much like interviews. And I think the admissions process isn’t as serious as we take it. Like I wrote my college application essay about my soccer collection and I wrote like a lot of my Stanford essays about like I wrote one of them about, um, if you wanna Oh, I wrote about a roommate essay. Yeah. I think I wrote about, um, I wrote a parody to the little mermaid, which talked about quarks and gluons, but all to the beat of, um, part of your world. So I think that a lot of people take the process really seriously when I think it’s an you can really have fun with.

Michael:             Yeah. And you know, I think that’s so true. Especially the stuff about taking it too seriously. I’m not going to be a person who says it doesn’t matter. Right. I do a podcast about it. Clearly it matters. But the part about part of this process is you kind of ordering through four years of high school and thinking through what’s important, what’s not, what do I like, what do I not like? And so you can get, you know, really into thinking through, okay, how will admissions officers take this? What are they thinking about this? And the other day you don’t really know what they’re going to take it out. So you should just kind of do whatever you think fits you the best because at the end of the day, I feel like you will like that more than if you manufactured something, an image of yourself, because you never know what’s going to happen. So you might as well do. What makes you feel like this application actually represents you.

Alexandra:          And I feel like the issue is that if you don’t do that, then if you get accepted, then why? Like I think that it brings, it begs the question like why are you there? Like should you really be there? Because if you weren’t really who you are, then they admitted someone who isn’t who you are. Like you’ll, I think you’ll always feel a little bit out of place. And I’ve been that. I think it’s better to not get into any of your dream schools, but by being yourself as opposed to being someone who you’re not, and getting into all the schools that you’d ever dreamed of. And I think that my mom actually asked me this question yesterday. She said, if you could do it again and if you could like change everything that you’ve done and get into Broward, you. And I said, no, because I don’t think that that’s really the way that the world isn’t, I don’t think it’s healthy for people who are like 18 or in high school to obsess over like one place and try to change who they are. I think that’s, it’s, it’s fundamentally wrong. I think it’s a lot of things like, I don’t know, cosmetic surgery, you’re changing the, you look on the outside, no one away when you found a manufacturer, your application, you’re kind of like doing that to yourself on the inside, doing all these things that you don’t really enjoy just because you think that they’ll look at an application.

Michael:             Yeah. No, I think that’s a perfect analogy. Um, and it makes a lot of sense to me. I do wonder though, when, when, uh, if we come back to like how you made the decision, particularly when it came to the Stanford question. Um, my take on for [inaudible] is I think a little bit different than yours. I think, you know, prestige has value because you know, the way we live in this world is we interact with other people and the name of fact of a school is different. And you know, for your high school, I know you said that Bowden, you know, is much bigger name than Harvard because you had no history with that school. But I think in general the reaction you get from like a Harvard is, is different than the reaction you get. If you were say like, oh, I go to like my local university and you know, we can discuss whether that’s good or bad. Like whether Harvard actually deserves their prestige. It does. I probably think it does it like I probably think the quality of education is not substantially greater and the type of kid you’re getting in Harvard or out of Harvard, it’s not like for sure and guaranteed to be better than any other student at any other school. But I think just as a, just as like a claim about the way the world works, there’s something valuable about the first reaction to that name.

Alexandra:          I do. I, I completely get what you’re saying. So this is actually, if you want to know the exact reason why I chose to go to code and over Stanford. Um, so the summer I’m going to be at Stanford, I’m taking two classes and so I wanted to have a lot position and so I emailed like 50 professors. I just copy and pasted, hi, I’m Alexandra, I really want to work in your lab, Dah, Dah, Dah, Dah, Dah and cite your old about 52 professors and only one responded. And he was a burden. He was a Rhodes scholar. He like got his phd from Harvard. He was really accomplished and he was actually the head of one of the departments and the head of a lab and he responded with this really nice email and I never even said that I was going to Boden next year.

Alexandra:          And I think that that, that was the reason why I chose this school is because I think that a lot of schools stand for different things. And for me like Boden is founded on the common good. It’s like a, like the admissions officers like select for one trait and it’s kindness and I feel like at a school like Harvard that I would never have gotten that. Like p like the like Brown flexors, their trades like Barnett’s flex there specific traits like um, Pomona does too. I just think that going into a small school like that that’s known for specific traits, I think it really creates a community that even though not, even though no one will know the name, like the people who you spent your time with or like the alumni will come and like we’ll really be there for you when you need it. And I feel like that’s something that’s really amazing.

Michael:             I think it goes back to that word we talked about when talking about growing up in a small town community raise. The level of community you’re going to get at a small school is I think different than the type of company you’re going to get at a big school. You know like going to Columbia, Columbia’s a fairly big school when it comes to the undergraduate population. Then you throw on Grad students and like non traditional students in the school of General Studies, it’s a lot of people. So you’re never going to know everybody on campus. You’re not even going to know everybody in your dorm or maybe not even everybody in, you know, the massive lecture you’re going to sit in your first couple of semesters. So I guess it really is about the type of education you want. So do you think the, the small school aspect of, of voting played a role in your decision?

Alexandra:          So at first I was like kind of terrified just to think that, oh like if I mess up then I’ll be able to live it down. Like, Oh, if something happened and then like they’ll all forever be. Yeah, I remember freshman year my pants ripped. I never lived, I haven’t lived that down for like two years. So I knew like I knew and knew that like the thing, I think that the other hand I was talking to, um, the girl that person currently goes to and I think that, so she was saying how she went to visit Berkeley and she was with some of her friends until she walks across the core like the quad. And she didn’t then no one than other people that she was with. Like where was with like they didn’t recognize anyone when they’re walking across the quad. But at Boden, when she’s walking across the college, she like recognizes like at least one person, but at the same time she doesn’t recognize like a lot of people.

Alexandra:          So even though the school was like, I think Boudin’s 1,800, 800 people, it feels small. But on the other hand there’s still like, so when people that you still don’t know, like you can’t know 1,800 people. And so I feel like it’s, I think that it allows you on the other hand to kind of, I don’t know, have a different type of experience but, but, but on the other hand, when you go to school at Columbia, you can join like different groups to make, make your experience smaller. I joining a fraternity or Sorority or journey a club. So I just, I think it totally depends on like how you want your college experience. I definitely do think that going to a liberal arts college, I think that as opposed to a large university, there’s something that’s extremely different. It’s just that class size and I think the access to professors.

Alexandra:          So I was talking to my friend at Nyu and she said that she’d actually never spoken to any of her professors. Yeah, no, not like spoken like the TA’s maybe, but like never actually spoken to any professors. And so when I went to Boden for admit weekend, I sat down and had dinner with the head of government two days in a row. I got to walk the head of films dog. Um, I got to babysit the head of like I’m one of the history professors, his children will, he went to like do something and that was just as it, that was just as like not even as a committed student, just as an admitted student. Yeah. And like I got to meet the head of economics and eat ice cream with her and the one of the seniors who are on the senior prize. And I feel like at an institution like Boden especially, we’re famous for like our really good food and our great quality of life. The actually the professors are incentivize to eat with the students so often have classes and near dinnertime or in your lunch and we’ll just go with their students and go get food and talk about what they were talking about in class. And I feel like at other schools, um, even though you can make your student community smaller, I don’t think you can really make your connections with the professors smaller. I feel like that’s something that’s really special and unique to small liberal arts colleges.

Michael:             Yeah. Yeah. I think that’s definitely true. You know, I have gotten lunch with one professor, my Chinese professor. And that’s because the department gives him a stipend, a to like take us out once a semester. So he wasn’t getting free food. So it’s definitely not like a, like a regular thing. And I don’t think any of our professors would go to a dining hall, although I will say Columbia was ranked in some, some study of some sort that we were the number one dining hall of the nation. So

Alexandra:          I don’t know which study. I don’t know why, but I like to dispute it. Um, yeah, I mean we’re infamous for Malcolm Gladwell who destroyed our school because our food was too good.

Michael:             Wait, wait. He destroyed your school for the food here.

Alexandra:          So he didn’t enjoy but he liked, so he, there’s, so there’s a podcast on our vision as history called food fight and he compares Vasser and Bowden and compares their food and then their amount of pell grant recipients. So Vassar has twice the number of pell grant recipients as burden, but they have like twice as bad. So therefore food quality and pell grant recipient population is obviously correlated. Okay. Welcome Gladwell. According to Gladwell. Yeah. But um, I think that actually that was one of the other main reasons why I chose burden. So voting and like Williams and Amherst and Pomona and some schools like that are actually extremely generous and financial aid. Boone has one of the highest dominance per student. And I feel like a lot of the other smaller bars, culture’s very high endowments per student just because I think that a lot of the alumni when they leave they give back. So Boone is like the second tied with Williams have like alumni giving rates. I they get just because when you leave you just really feel a connection to the institution. Do you feel like when you leave Columbia, you’re Sligo feel like that really tight connection to Columbia?

Michael:             I mean, some people do. Obviously, you know, our endowment is substantial, probably more substantial than it needs to be really being honest. Um, but you know, there’s a huge thing at Columbia that’s just like there is a lack of community and the reason that people give for it is that it’s in the city. So, you know, people go out into the city to do their things, they don’t stay on campus. Um, which, you know, I think could be true for some people might not be true for other people, but it’s definitely like a complaint you hear a lot from people.

Alexandra:          [inaudible] I thought that definitely to me that I see like a lot of schools that are urban so they just don’t have that same sense of community that you can get it through

Michael:             more rural. Huh. Like, especially a school like Nyu where you’re actually built into the city and like you have your, your door that you have an office building, then you have like someone’s apartment and then you have your classroom and maybe another dorm or like it’s literally built into a part of the city. There’s no well-defined campus. And for a school like that, you know, I just think it’s incredibly hard to really create something cohesive because you’re not really a campus. You’re in the city. Right?

Alexandra:          Yeah. And I think it really brings a question like what are colleges and like how are they different? Because in a way like Nyu is in no way your traditional college experience, it’s completely different. And I think that that’s a thing really interesting. Like how even though institutions like me ranked closely, they’re extremely different in so many different ways.

Michael:             Yeah. And I think that’s why it’s really hard to make a decision or really bad to make a decision just on rankings. Right. That

Alexandra:          was my, my father, he actually really wanted me to go to Wellesley because it was number three on yours. And this is, I forgot off several wait and then, but Boone was, Alina were five, so obviously, so obviously it was not as prestigious according to him, but I think that it really, like I, I went and looked into rankings and the way that we ranked schools as well, and that’s really questionable. Like 25% of the rankings are derived from pier reputation. So what is that? What does reputation mean? Yeah, and it’s other admission heads of admissions ranking schools and how procedures they perceived them to be,

Michael:             which I don’t really care about it. I’ll be real honest with you. Like I don’t care what admissions officers thinking about other schools. I care about what other schools

Alexandra:          and I, yeah, I think that’s like, it’s really difficult to like start to question, um, why schools are good. I’m like, what makes them good? But I think that honestly, when it came down to it, I think that nowadays, like with the admissions process and the admission scandals and all the things that are going on, like I was a lucky, and I don’t know if you heard about this, but Grinnell and Oberlin both or hacked and likes people social security number. Yeah, they were, the social security numbers were leaked. My address got leaked in, my allegation was held for ransom by bitcoin. It was horrible, but going cool. Yeah. So I was, I can send you the email later Michael, but they, so some, some hackers hacked into the Granola, um, admission system and they had like my subject test scores and my act and my address and they said if you want for like one Bitcoin, you can buy your decision like two months before it comes out.

Alexandra:          And although it was crazy, I decided not to here, but a lot of like things I felt like I was, I was talking to him why my, I honestly, this admissions process was like, I could make a future lies with the film about it first that, and then Lori Loughlin Laughlin, [inaudible] Huffman scandal. And I didn’t, that’s like actually the reason why I think I decided to choose Bowden was that when you, when, when like when I talk to people who went to Stanford and you ask them like, oh, what can your school do better? They don’t, they say like, no, there’s something that our school can really do better. We’re like, perfect. But when I went to Boden, like I think that it was one of the only institutions that I like visited that actually strive to be a better school. And so like a few, like last year they were in like criticized for not having enough students in from Maine and this year they’ve increased it by three times.

Alexandra:          They are criticized for not being ecofriendly in this. Then they’re going to be eco flick. They’re going to go carbon neutral by 2020 and they were one of the first schools. I think that also another question, I don’t want to divert the topic of the podcast, but of test optional schools. It’s, it’s, I didn’t apply to test optional, but voting is like one of the only like, um, it’s, I think it might be along with, you should hug with the only need, um, need blind test, optional school. Um, I think that it’s really interesting that I think it definitely, there’s a different type of student because I think like Boden and Middlebury and Dartmouth, they’re pretty similar in their student bodies. Fundamentally. I think that where they differ is just that need line test, optional aspect. I think it completely changes the type of institution that it ends up being, even though like they’re, they’re pretty similar in their like stereotypes, but like I think that after they did that and they became need blind test option, I think it completely changed what type of people that they attract any that’s really amazing.

Michael:             Yeah. You know, and I think, I think when people talk about the culture of our school at first, especially when I was writing these white college supplements, I got a scarf. I was like, okay, that’s what admissions officers say. But thinking through it now and actually going to a college, I think it definitely is true that the cultures are different. They really are. Yeah. Like the one thing I can say about Columbia is it is absolutely very politically active. Like there is some protests going on every single day, some place on campus. And so even if it’s like something I don’t really care about, um, I think it’s just so interesting that there’s somebody who cares about it and somebody who’s pumped up about it enough to hold it aside and marched down, you know, college walk or main sidewalk area, um, yelling about it. I think that’s so cool.

Michael:             Whereas I don’t think you’re going to get that at, you know, for instance, my, the local school here, University of Texas at Dallas, you don’t see a protest every day or even every week or even every month there. Um, and especially when it comes to the, you know, the thing you said about the administration being receptive to change. I think in general, if you talk to a lot of like student government people at most schools, they’re gonna say, Oh, the administration, uh, they could do 70 things better. And part of it is just, I think that’s the student’s job is to make complaints and ask the university to do better. But I do think there is something to be said about how well the university responds. So Columbia is very well known for the university not responding and just like ignoring, yeah, this mattress girl, mattress girl, the stuff now going on in bed Hotville the new campus we’re building in Harlem and the gentrification and the problems that cause in that community versus a school, you know, like in my experience Uva or Swarthmore Swarthmore’s yeah, definitely. Yeah.

Alexandra:          Current current issues going on with that. Yeah. Yeah.

Michael:             The Swarthmore thing is interesting, right? Like there is a frat that shut themselves down because of the sexual assault issues.

Alexandra:          I feel like I could only happen at a school like Swarthmore. Um, how do you feel about fraternities? Michael? Just quick question.

Michael:             Uh, I will. All right. I’m, I’m a little mixed because there are obviously huge problems with fraternities. Like sexual assault had rave or bad and fraternities on average have a lot more of those cases then been just like the normal student population, which is awful. And just anecdotally like stories about frat parties going to maybe like a frat party. It’s just like you see it just like awful and you know, there’s so many problems. And the other thing is like there’s a culture, there is like a frat boy culture where it’s just like, ah, you know, let’s go were at a party, let’s do whatever. And of course it’s not all people in fraternities and Sororities, of course, it’s not everybody in even particular frats, but there is absolutely a culture of that, which is why you see on average systemically more incidents of assault and harassment because of frack like at frats. Uh, but at the same time kind of just like self interestedly joining a Frat. There are connections there that are very, very useful. You know, like if you think about all these presidents, they been a part of all these secret society you said. Yeah, like skull and bones or whatever, final clubs at Harvard. And so I don’t really know. I think frats need to do better when it comes to issues of rape and assault, but I also understand why individuals might choose to join them. I don’t know if that makes sense.

Alexandra:          And I do. Yeah. And I do think that I know a lot of people who joined them, like single people who were like didn’t have siblings growing up. And you do really get like a community again like that you wait and get in and eat in a different situation because you look like live living so close to people. Um, but yeah, I think it’s also, it’s interesting when schools choose to shut down frats. So I know like that’s uh, um, uh, upcoming trend that’s occurring to, um,

Michael:             yeah, there, there’s this really weird story about Columbia in the 60s that the administration actually called the police on the frats. Um, not for any good reason. Like not because they were trying to deal with rampant sexual assault and rape. I think it was just because there was like some too loud you’ll there and it was too loud. And so Columbia wanted to also play, take control of the brownstones that the frats. So good move, wrong intentions. Yeah. Third questionable calling the police on their own students. There’s some, there’s some stories there.

Alexandra:          And so, yeah. Um, I think that also as you were saying before, I think that it’s really difficult when I think you first like start a school where you first go to a new place to kind of see what is, what it’s like when you first get some, or like how like about knowing or talking to other students. Like I don’t think that if you’d like we’re first to rush at a fraternity or sorority. How would you know what is like the place where a lot of like sexual assaults happen or the place that’s the grid known for being very academic? I think it’s really difficult. I think that like you have to eventually just find those things out. I was talking to my mom who said when she was in, she accidentally joined like a Jewish or a sorority and not being Jewish. She just didn’t know it was. And she had had a very Jewish sounding last name and it was just completely accidental and she eventually realized, Oh oops, this is not the right place for me.

Michael:             So what ended up happening?

Alexandra:          I think she ended up, I don’t know actually I should probably ask her. Oh yeah. Hilarious. I think she might’ve just stayed in it. I am pretty sure.

Michael:             Yeah. I feel like it’d be a little awkward to kick her out for it. Right. Yeah. Cause what would that be? Um, I would probably have to think that one, but like I just feel like it’d be too awkward for, for like the leadership to do. Um, although I will say like if you’re interested in Frat life, I think definitely asking people around like what the reputation of the Frat is, particularly older students. Um, I also think, you know, there’s like a quote unquote rushing process where you meet members of the Frat and you kind of have to like, this is another thing I hate about frats and sororities and Greek life. You have to like mingle and like make yourself look impressive. And there’s like a selection process, which feels super weird to me. It’s like I have to audition to be your friend like this, this, this, this feels uncomfortable at the very least. Um, but at the very least during that process, you probably will get a feel of of what the Ah, Frat is kind of like,

Alexandra:          I think that’s not to plug my school. Sorry. No, please go for it. It’s good. In 2000, um, Bowden, uh, they uh, dismantled the flat frat so we don’t have routes in, we have college houses. And so the way that you become a part of the college houses, so when you’re a freshman you get randomly sorted into college houses isn’t that, it’s like you’re part of that house for the first year and then you have the option to live in that actual house. And the way that you get selected is that you have to propose like college programming events and things that you would do while living in that house. And I’ve been to that something that’s a lot more productive and that I think that it’s like that like showing the seals that you’ll like actually bring and like how you’ll help the community as opposed to just like how friendly and the popularity contest that occurs. And I feel like it’s ends up actually being a lot more inclusive. Yeah.

Michael:             I think, you know, I, I’m really jealous of systems like that and you know, kind of similarly Yale’s residential college system where there just is just a closer knit community as a result of housing. Right. Like it is actually very well thought out. It sounds like in, in Bowden’s case, you know where, which college house you’re going to, to go to because you actually have to, you know, discuss what you’re interested in and what you’re interested in doing. Whereas most of the time for housing I got Columbia for most people at least you just kind of pick which one has the big rooms and ac, you know, there’s a,

Alexandra:          yeah, I know my friends, they met each other on college confidential and their roommates not Barnard. So I don’t think there’s much of a, I don’t think they do much pairing, but yeah. And, um, I think it’s pretty, like you’re saying, it’s, it’s, I think that housing community or such important questions that we have to think about when we’re, I talking about colleges because not only are there places where you’re like learning and getting a degree, but also they’re like places that you’re going to be living for four years and like very transformative times in your life. Yeah.

Michael:             You don’t have to sum it up by fake, you know, people making the decision between an lic liberal arts college and maybe something bigger or just thinking about where they want to apply to rather than just like picking the names, you know, think about what type of school you want to go to, you know, what are the things you have to have and what’s the type of community you want to live in. And I think it depends for different people. Like I think I personally might enjoy some aspects of, uh, you know, tighter knit community. But I also enjoy being in a big city. Right. And so I have to weigh that trade off. And eventually I, you know, obviously chose Columbia, the big city went over. Um, and I think I made the right choice. But it just depends on what you want in your college and your college community

Alexandra:          completely. Yeah.

Michael:             Do you have any last words of advice to, to anybody thinking about liberal arts colleges?

Alexandra:          I think definitely think about, don’t I think don’t be afraid to go somewhere that you don’t originally think would be the place for you. If you would have told me like five or six months ago, but I would be going to a small school in rural Maine. I would think you were crazy. Did I think now after learning about it more and I think just giving places a shot. Um, I think there are a lot of preconceived notions that we have about schools can sometimes be wrong. And I think that just not judging a book by its cover is really important, is I think going into this process, open minded and really being, looking to explore and to try to think about where you’ll be happy, not where your parents or where like other people will be happy that you’re going, but where you actually thrive and that’s one of the most important things in this process.

Michael:             Yeah, I think that is a great last piece of advice to kind of add the podcast on. Thank you so much, Alexandra, for coming on the admissions uncovered podcasts. It’s been a lot of fun.

Alexandra:          Thank you for having me.

Michael:             Of course. And to our listeners, thank you so much for listening to this week’s episode of the admissions uncovered podcast. My usual plug here, go over to your Instagram, opened the APP right now and type in at admissions dot. Uncover. That’s our Instagram. We post some pictures with college advice and sometimes actually fairly regularly. Now we post college admissions means, so if you want to see some memes about college admissions, head over to Instagram at admissions dot uncovered. We’re also on Twitter at [inaudible] Pod FM and on Facebook at admissions dot uncovered. With that, thanks so much for listening and I will see you next week.

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