It is tough picking the college you want to go to. It's stressful, and you feel all this pressure to make the "right" decision. I had a hard enough time trying to pick a major; how was I going to pick the right school?
I remember starting my college search with my twin brother, Ben, the summer before our junior year (that may seem early to some, but it doesn't hurt to start looking early). Even though my brother and I had completely different majors in mind, it was great having someone to go through the process with. My family would go on mini road trips, visiting colleges on both of our lists. Sometimes I would go to a school that only my brother was interested in. If that school didn't have a major I wanted, sometimes I would make one up for the day and roll with it just for fun.
Even though I knew some of the schools I visited did not have a program I was interested in, I would use the visit to learn more about what I wanted in a school. I would compare housing, food, size, location, and all that other good stuff. Seeing a lot of schools helped me figure out a few things: I did not want a school in the middle of a city, I did not want a gigantic campus, I did not want a tiny campus, I wanted academic diversity and options, and I definitely wanted to be within a day's drive from home (or less).
By the end of junior year, I decided to major in Graphic Design. I started working on all the necessary pieces I would need for a portfolio, and signed up for extra art classes during my senior year. I continued looking into schools with a mix of design and engineering majors.
During my senior year, I began to seriously question if I should pursue "art" as a career and if I would be good enough in the design field. Math and physics were actually some of my stronger classes; how could I not go into engineering?!!! Almost immediately, I told my parents, teachers, counselors, and any school I had started the admission process with that I wanted to go into Civil Engineering (or Civil Engineering Technology, in RIT's case). This completely changed the schools I was looking at. From that point, my list focused on engineering schools. I visited a few more campuses, and even stayed overnight at one of them. One important criteria I looked for in these engineering schools was an opportunity to still take art classes. At least I always knew that I'd want art or design to be part of my college experience.
That's where RIT comes in. Not only did I have a good feeling when I stepped on campus for my first tour, but they had everything I wanted. RIT has top engineering programs as well as top programs in design. I knew that I could find that balance between art and engineering at RIT, unlike so many of the other schools I looked at.
As it turns out, I ended up switching out of engineering technology after my freshman year and into New Media Design – a true mix of art and technology. New Media Design is a unique program that focuses on applying principles and elements of design to user interfaces in things like websites and apps to make it more usable. I love the diversity in my classes. I've taken fine art classes, graphic design classes, and I've started to learn how to code. I absolutely love this unique major and am so happy I came to RIT.
In addition to having the right academics for me, RIT met all my other criteria for my "ideal" college. It's located in Henrietta, a suburb of the city of Rochester. I don't have to worry about crossing any streets or traffic when getting to class, and it is still close enough to enjoy different aspects of "city life." It's also conveniently close to home for me, making it easy for me not to miss out on big family events. RIT is also the perfect size. With 15,000 undergraduate students, there is always something going on, whether it's free movies, a capella or improv shows, juggling contests, hockey games, etc. At the same time, it's also small enough that I can still run into someone I know walking to class or when I'm grabbing something to eat.
I know it can be stressful trying to decide what school to pick. My best advice is to make a list of pros and cons and to try to visit each campus (I know it's kinda cliché, but it works). My gut feeling on campus really helped me make my decision. Think about what is best for your academics, and then whatever other factors are important to you. If you can't visit in person, do some research and find as much information as you can. In the end, go with what feels right to you. Good luck!