The College Decision: What Matters?

I remember vividly staring at a list of colleges, a list of admission acceptances, every day in April as I felt the college decision deadline approaching quickly. With my short list, I thought that the decision shouldn’t be too difficult. I had only applied to colleges where I could see myself attending—so how could I choose just one from a list of amazing options?

April is a hard month for college applicants as the decision deadline looms. As you sit there, weighing your options, wavering between your choices, it really comes down to answering one question:

What matters to you?

The answer can be anything from the school’s ranking to the cost of tuition to the weather. After researching all of the colleges on my list and taking these factors and so many others into account, I thought that I had made a solid decision: I was going to attend college in the San Francisco Bay Area. However, my parents had a different plan.

They wanted me to really get to know my college options by visiting their campuses. I suspected that their secret agenda was to get me to follow in their footsteps and attend UCI! It just so happened that Celebrate UCI, an open house for the campus, was coming up, and so my family took a trip down to Southern California so that I could get to know their alma mater.

I had a great experience visiting UCI. Of all of the presentations at Celebrate UCI, the one that I remembered most was the one for the Campuswide Honors Program (CHP). The presenters and student panelists really made it clear that the CHP and UCI had what I wanted. The honors advisor outlined I could have the support of the small CHP community and the many advantages of a big research university at the same time. I could see clearly how excited and proud the current students were of their status as honors students and the honors program. They were double majors, campus leaders, and just great people—and I wanted to hang out with them and to become them!

This campus visit completely turned around my college decision. I realized that UCI and the Campuswide Honors Program offered me an exciting education and rewarding college experience alongside other smart and driven students. And that’s exactly what I got in being a part of CHP and more.

Ultimately, I found many opportunities to learn and grow as a student, as a leader, and as a person. Taking the CHP core courses has introduced me to an array of fields and widened my perspective. In particular, I decided to not only major in Biology but also to add a second Spanish major thanks to Honors Humanities Core, which encouraged me to see how culture and science intersect and inform each other. In the small honors seminars, I participated in discussions where I learned a lot from classmates with a variety of majors who are now my best friends. We have hung out a lot and deepened our friendships at CHP social events. I am now helping to plan and organize events like the weekly CHP Coffee Hours and Battle of the Brains, an annual trivia bowl that pits students against faculty. So now, I have a family away from home!

When you’re picking the college you want to attend, you don’t have to have a grand and elaborate reason for your final choice. Maybe, after narrowing down the selection, you pick the college where professors hang out with students, or the school that has a strong advising support system, or the university that’s known for its relationship to the community. Other people might wonder a little about your logic, but it all comes down to a sense of belonging. If you feel like you can see yourself at that college and thrive there, that’s a good enough reason.

So, take a deep breath, pick up your list, and ask yourself: What matters to me?


By: Danica (Biology and Spanish)