I hear about colleges all day long. It’s (obviously) what I do for a living. I know from my own college search experiences and my day-to-day job that many institutions begin to blend together and sound exactly alike. Students and families seek to understand what’s different about Vanderbilt. How does Vanderbilt set itself apart from its peers? It’s hard to describe what’s different about Vanderbilt because so much about choosing a college depends on your experiences in the flesh. When you’re standing on the campus lawn do you feel at home or not? It’s often as easy as a gut reaction. However, I know families don’t have a tons of money to throw around on college visits, so how do you decide where to visit?
Start to listen for recurring themes at each college on your list. The character and life of an institution can often be found in how it’s defined. Yes, many institutions are going to sound similar, but the specific buzz words they use can be incredibly important. For example, when I went to a large public flagship for my undergraduate degree I heard words such as “vast”, “great”, “expansive”, “breadth”, and “diverse”. My life was changed because of the exposure I had to so many people and opportunities. At Vanderbilt, I hear words such as “balance”, “community”, “cooperative”, “engaged”, and “service”. The Vanderbilt experience blends living and learning. The words that float up most emphasize this intimate connection. If the buzz words you’re hearing excite you then it’s a good idea to check the school out in person.
So, as you browse websites, read blogs, or meet admission counselors on the road, keep an ear out for the blend of adjectives which start to construct a personality for each campus.