Judging school on environment or specific program...

<p>I'm really confused about how to narrow down my list of schools. Up until this summer I was sure I wanted to go into medicine. Now I have realized that medicine is DEFINITELY not for me(I've always loved writing and social sciences more than math/science) and am looking into law and journalism(probably leaning toward journalism though). I need a school that has a strong reputation in both but I also really would like an LAC. I love small classes and I've heard that LACs have a more intellectual environment. The problem is that most of the schools I've heard are strong in journalism are big state schools(U missouri-columbia, unc-chapel hill, etc.) and I don't know much about which schools are best for pre-law. Does anyone have any ideas?
Here is some info about me to help give you an idea of where I have a shot of getting accepted:
white female from PA
SAT I: 1440
SAT IIS: Bio M, Eng, Math IIC, all in 700 range
Rank: 16/330 in class at competitive public high school
Taking toughest course load at my school. We have a gifted program that you have to take IQ testing and maintain at least a B to get/stay in the class and I'm in all of those classes. We have those and regular AP courses and the gifted courses are considered above AP and prepare you for the AP test. APs: Will be taking Art History, Calc, Gov/politics, Eng. Lit, and possibly others depending on whether I think I'll do well(Bio, Physics, Spanish) by end of this year. Already took English Language and got a 5.
GPA: 3.9 unweighted 4.3 weighted
Extra curriculars:Key Club(10,11,12)Student Gov(10,11,12)NHS-elected head of peer tutoring and was a volunteer peer tutor myself(11,12) worked 100+ hours of volunteer work at sports medicine clinic, attended highly competive summer program(Pennsylvania Governor's School of Health Care) as well as other programs(National Youth Leadership Forum on Medicine), Leadership Club-did summer leadership training program between 9th and 10th grade to join club(10,11,12), BBYO(Jewish Youth group)(11,12),Cross Country(9-had to quit because of hip injury), crew(rowing)(10,11,12(maybe, if I have time))work approximately 20 hrs per week at bagel place(reason why not able to do crew seeing as I desperately need money and crew usually costs at least a couple hundred a month), Competitive Rowing camp over summer between 10th and 11th grade
Planned career: deciding between law and journalism
Other interesting facts: My dad and brother never finished college so I don't know if this will help me since I'll be a first generation college student on my dads side of the family.</p>

<p>These boards contain many discussions about journalism schools. My recollection is that not all the top ones are large state universities; Syracuse is one that comes to mind. So check the previous ("classic") boards at CC for more information.</p>

<p>As far as law school is concerned, some schools have "pre-law" programs tht include a few courses on legal subjects, plus some guidance counseling on preparation for law school. However, none of that is really necessary. For law school, you need a very good GPA and a very good score on the LSAT. Most any major will do to prepare you for law school; journalism is fine.</p>

<p>So choose the college on the basis of what it offers you itself as a school, not on the basis of preparation for law school (to whch you might not want to go, in any case).</p>

<p>It sounds to me like an LAC would be a good fit for you. You may change your mind about pre-law, journalism, or any other major that you consider now. An LAC would give you lots of freedom to explore. The LAC that I'm most familiar with is Dickinson. From your stats and description, it sounds like you would be a strong candidate there. You have some leadership items mentioned, and they'd like that. I don't know if they have rowing, or how their journalism program is. You can look into those areas. They also seem to have a pretty active Hillel. So I'd urge you to look into this school as well as other LACs. Unless of course you want to get out of state! Good luck.</p>

<p>Some LAC's with good communications/journalism programs include Macalester (MN), Gettysburg (PA), Washington & Lee (VA), Southwestern Univ. (Texas), Muhlenberg (PA), Goucher (MD). All of these schools are also very good for pre-law (and pre-med for that matter!) so I'd suggest you start here and see if anything catches your interest. </p>

<p>Many LAC's that are strong in English often offer journalism classes. Even without specific journalism classes, a strong writing program can serve you well if you do decide to go into journalism. Some to look into include Kenyon, Vassar, Skidmore, Smith, Wellesley, Wesleyan, Knox (Il), Beloit (Wisc.) but there are many others as well.</p>

<p>I'd also suggest you check out Northwestern and Syracuse - both have very good journalism schools and, while they are larger universities, as private schools classes tend to be somewhat smaller. Some smaller universities may also work - look at Ithaca College, U of Miami, Trinity U (Tx) for starters.</p>

<p>I'd say you have a good shot at all of the schools I named above, although some will lean towards reaches, some towards safeties. Good luck!</p>

<p>For most students, picking a college for a single major/career area is a mistake. Many if not most students change majors in college. You have already seen yourself decide a career in medicine isn't for you. </p>

<p>As for journalism, my bet is that you can write on the college paper and enter the field without having a major in journalism. However what you should do is "informational interviewing" discussed at great length in the seminal book "What Color is Your Parachute". To do it, you simply call a local paper, TV station, etc and explain you are a HS student interested in learning more about journalism and ask if you can meet with a journalist for 30 minutes or so, maybe even over lunch. Most adults are happy to talk about their careers to students and share advice, and identifying yourself as a student makes it clear this isn't an attempt to pump them for a job. So talk to people in the field, ask them for their advice about major, schools, etc.</p>

<p>As for picking a college, there are lots of books filled with advice on it. As you've discovered, its seldom the case that a single factor predominates. In fact you want to consider a bunch of things and decide what is important to you.</p>

<p>Here are a few off the top of my head -- urban, suburban, or rural? Do you want easy access by train/bus to a major metropolitan area such as Boston or NYC? Are larger lecture classes ok, and for what percentage of your classes? How about when you're an upper-classman, large lectures still ok? Do you want a school with a large greek system, a small greek presence, or none at all? A commuter school where you live in the surrounding city somewhere, or a residential campus? How about other interests you have -- do you want to spend a semester abroad, play intramural sports, volunteer in the community, etc? A school with a big-time athletics program because you enjoy watching sports, or maybe one that is division III so you could play tennis? Different colleges have strengths in various areas. </p>

<p>Another thing to do is read thru some of the "insider" guides to colleges. Not so much for their depiction of each college at this point, but to get an idea of what students at various places like/dislike about them. I bet some things will occur to you that you want/dislike in college that you don't know about yet. There are also many good books about picking colleges (such as "Colleges that Change Lives" by Pope) that can flesh out the selection process in much more detail. </p>

<p>And BTW this is an iterative process and takes time. Do some of the thinking/research outlined above, then reflect on it by talking with your parents and friends as well as other college-age people you know. Do some first-hand checking of some of your conclusions by making some visits to colleges of the types that you think you're interested in. Don't be afraid to revisit your choices and revise them as you learn/experience more, and talk to as many students as you can. Many admissions offices can arrange an overnite stay with a volunteer host and you should do this as you become more settled in what some of your top choices are. Talk to your parents in general terms about affordability so you don't get your heart set on some place you can never afford. </p>

<p>One point to keep in mind is that YOU are really in the driver's seat. There are thousands of colleges in the country, and outside of perhaps the top 50-75 most are readily available to a good student. So you really can find a college that has what you want and get in. Of course if a strong favorite emerges and its selective then go ED.</p>

<p>I had a simliar problem when I was selecting a college. I got into a school with a very reputable biology program and was tempted to accept their offer. However, I accepted the school that seemed like a "better fit", and a better environment for me. Even though I never switched majors, I don't regret it at all.</p>

<p>A common path for either a journalism or law degree is an English, History or social science degree at a top LAC, with law school or journalism grad school to follow. For journalism, a journalism undergrad degree is not a necessity, though media or communications classes, experience on the college paper and some sort of internship are good ideas. </p>

<p>Your stats make you a strong candidate at just about any LAC. Mikemac has some good suggestions for decision criteria. One additional characteristic to look for would be a school with an emphasis on writing across all academic areas. Of about forty schools that would be excellent options these come most readily to mind: Amherst, Swarthmore, Wesleyan, Bates, Haverford, Middlebury, Vassar, Carleton, Macalester, Barnard, Kenyon, Smith, Trinity and Bard. If you want to row, a few of those schools may not work. Good luck.</p>