Mondays with Mason: Choosing the Right College

Today, we are introducing a new series designed to help high school kids and their parents as they consider next steps. Our intern, Mason, a sophomore in college, will be discussing college, majors, etc. and talking about what it's really like once you are out in the real world. We hope her candid accounts and personal stories help you and your family make the right decisions for you!

First up, choosing the right college.

By Mason Larimore

The summer before my senior year, I finally decided to take on the daunting task of deciding which college I would attend the following fall. As an 18 year old, deciding what I wanted to do and which school I wanted to continue my education at seemed like a lot to take on at one time. I knew I wanted to stay in state so I could utilize all of my scholarship money and I knew I wanted to study agriculture and continue my FFA career. I also had it in the back of my mind that I wanted to go to school that had a big athletic program and had a student body that was diehard about the school's athletic teams. I sat down one afternoon and got on the internet to see which Kentucky schools offered agriculture majors and had active collegiate FFA chapters.

With the click of the mouse, 5 schools popped up that fit my criteria: Eastern Kentucky University, Morehead University, Murray State University, Western Kentucky University, and the University of Kentucky. After perusing each university's website I quickly narrowed my list to 2 universities, Murray State University and the University of Kentucky. When looking at these 2 universities they seemed to be at opposite ends of the spectrum. Murray State University is located in the western part of the state in the town of Murray, not 15 minutes from the Tennessee state line. With current enrollment of around 11,000 students and the current highlight in the town is that in the past year, they got a Panera Bread and reopened the bowling alley, it tends to be seen as a simple, small Kentucky town. In comparison, the University of Kentucky is located in the heart of Lexington, KY, is home to a nationally known basketball team and is home to about 30,000 students. The differences between the 2 schools were very apparent but I wanted to keep my options open.

I toured Murray State first, as it was the furthest away and I had never been on the campus. After an early start, a 4 hour long drive, and a change in time zone (Murray is located in the Central Time Zone) we finally arrived to the campus. At MSU, before the tour starts, you have a 1-on-1 session with an admissions counselor to give you a rundown of how the school tends to operate, housing accommodations, and of course… how much it is going to cost you. Once this session concludes, the campus tour commences. I really enjoyed how close all of the academic buildings were to one another and the residential colleges (at Murray State, they are not dorms… they are residential colleges. Think Harry Potter housing system.)

Keeping my options open and not settling on the first school I looked at, I scheduled a tour for the University of Kentucky (home of the famed UK Wildcats and the diehard student body to match) and was interested to see what the school could offer for my future. Once the hour and a half drive was made to Lexington and the group session over housing, enrollment, and cost had ended we then were taken on a tour of the sprawling campus (3 times the size of Murray State's campus) and dormitories. I had spent a lot of time on campus before for FFA events but had never actually been through the entire campus so it was an interesting experience for me.

I ultimately only applied to one school (Murray State University) and began school in August of 2014. There are many things to consider when applying to colleges and you have to truly pick a school that fits your wants and needs… not someone else's. I looked at 2 opposite schools so I had to decide:

Do I want to go to a big school or a small school?

Do I want to live in a big city or small town?

How far away do I want to be from home?

Do I want to go to school where I know a lot of people?

Does the program at one school fit my needs better than the other?

Where do I feel most at home?

There are many things to consider, but these were the questions that helped me narrow it down. These questions are important, especially the last one, because the place you decide to go to college ends up being your home away from home.

Once you decide whether you want to stay in state and which field you want to study, the choice for a school becomes a little easier to make. I encourage those looking towards going to college to be open-minded - you may end up at a school that you had never really heard of before or doesn't meet the original image of what you thought your college experience was going to be. Murray State has afforded me many opportunities that I couldn't have experienced elsewhere! I have been fortunate and never regretted my choice of school and hope that everyone else gets as lucky as I have been when it comes to choosing a college. Go Racers!

Check back with us each Monday as Mason shares another part of her college experience!

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