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Sunday, September 28, 2003
 
Different voices, different choices

Editor's note: Experience often provides the best guidance, so Seattle Times reporter Patti Jones asked six students to assess whether they'd picked the right college. Here, in their own words, are their reflections.
 
Photo
TIM MATSUI / SPECIAL TO THE SEATTLE TIMES
Kelly Meade, a student at the University of Washington, guides junior-high and high-school students participating in the Gear Up program through campus. Meade went to the UW to participate in women's crew, which she has greatly enjoyed, but found the transition from high school difficult.
Three with regrets

Emancia Gains, a junior at the University of Washington

When I was going to Ballard High School, my first college choice was Seattle University. But its tuition was sky-high, and the UW offered me a free ride. So I'm here, and there are a lot of good things about the UW. It's strong in medicine, international relations and foreign study. I'm even going to study at (a Ghana exchange program) this year. But 25 percent of me wishes I had gone to SU. I like to go to church, and at SU, they have a church right on campus. They also have small classes at SU, whereas the UW has classes of 500 people. I hate that. When you need to talk to teachers, you feel so uncomfortable approaching them because they don't know who you are. That's why I always sit in the front row, because then they at least recognize my face.

Paul Rand, a 2003 graduate of Seattle Pacific University

I went to Holy Cross, a private high school in Everett, and I wanted to attend a small, private college where I could be a person and not a number. Santa Clara was my first, second and third choice, because the weather was warm and the people were friendly. But I couldn't see paying $30,000 for an undergraduate education when I could attend SPU on scholarship and save my money for law school.

Did I make the right decision? Academic-wise I've been very pleased with SPU. And, unlike a lot of my friends, I'm coming out of school debt-free. But I've been less thrilled with SPU's social environment. It's very conservative. There's not much happening. And it's very religious. It can get pretty lonely if you're not a part of the status quo.

Kelly Meade, a fifth-year student at the University of Washington

The UW was always my first choice. I was the coxswain for a rowing team in California and met the UW team and its coaches at a crew meet in San Diego. It seemed like a nice team, so I applied at the UW even though I was offered a full scholarship to Sacramento State. I already knew Sacramento; I wanted to learn another city. My brother went to Morehouse in Atlanta, but I didn't want that big of a change.

You can't imagine the amount of joy I've had here in crew, but if I had it to do over again, I would go to community college first. Why? Because I needed an easier transition from high school to college. My freshman-year grades were not that good, and part of it was that I was having difficulty adjusting. I'd come from a high school where we had Pacific Islanders, Latinos, Cambodians, a real mix. So the first time I stepped foot on campus, I was shocked. For people of color, the UW can be intimidating — the way the classes look, the way the professors look. When you add that to sports and school work, it can be kind of rough.
 
Photo
TIM MATSUI / SPECIAL TO THE SEATTLE TIMES
Mohamed Nuur works at M2 Information Systems with Tom Wilks, left, and Marni Lee, right, at a job that uses the skills he learned at Edmonds Community College. "At ECC, the classes are small, so you don't get lost in the crowd," said Nuur.
Three who picked well

Mohamed Nuur, 2003 graduate of Edmonds Community College

I started ECC in the Running Start program (which lets high-school students earn free college credits). When I graduated from Edmonds-Woodway High, I decided to go to ECC full time and then transfer later into a four-year computer-science program.

Regrets? I don't have any. At ECC, the classes are small, so you don't get lost in the crowd. The hours are flexible, so you can go to school in the morning and work in the afternoon. And, for me, it wasn't hard to find work because I earned two certificates while I was at ECC, one in C++ computer programming and one in game development. I'm working now as a medical software and game developer.

If you try to get into (a four-year college) straight out of high school, you have nothing to show them but your high-school grades. And if your grades aren't that great, you're in deep trouble. You have a better chance of getting in if you spend a few years getting your grades up and earning certificates at a community college. It's what you need to do to survive.

Christine Lusier, senior at Central Washington University

I'd originally planned to go to a community college so I could live at home and save money, but in the beginning of my senior year at Meadowdale High (in Lynnwood), I had to do a college portfolio for a class, and just for the heck of it I applied to Central and got accepted. That was good, because halfway through my senior year, I decided I didn't want to live at home. I wanted to be independent.

I knew Central was the right place for me almost the minute I saw the campus. Being from the Seattle area, which is pretty populated, I liked that Ellensburg is in the middle of nowhere. It's beautiful here, with all the surrounding farmland and the Yakima River. There are lots of places to go hiking and bike riding. But it's only two hours from Edmonds, so I can go home when I need to. And the cost of living is pretty cheap. My two roommates and I split a three-bedroom duplex for $800. Of course, housing is probably cheaper in Pullman (Washington State University), but it's definitely more expensive in Bellingham (Western Washington) and Seattle. In Seattle, it would be hard to find a studio in the University District for what I pay.

Jonathan Bettin, senior at Yale University

As a student at University Prep, I knew I wanted a college that was small to midsize, had a good academic reputation and was in another part of the country. I was looking to travel somewhere, to see something new. I decided on Yale. Part of Yale's appeal is the dorm system. The students are split into 12 residential groups, each with its own dining hall and courtyard. You stick with the same group for four years and get really close.

The location is also nice. New Haven (Conn.) is a city, but not a big city. You don't need a car to get around. And if you want to go into New York City to listen to music or see some theater, it's just a short train ride away.

In terms of Yale's reputation, that can only help. Ivy League schools are old and prestigious. People are impressed by degrees from there. It gives you an edge when you go to look for a job or apply to graduate school. If you want to go to graduate school, it's also nice to have studied under professors well-known in their field — and a number of Yale's profs have national reputations.

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