By Joy Furman
By entering into a small honors program at a big public university I gave myself the opportunity to meet people with whom I had a lot in common and at the same time save a lot of money on tuition. When I was a senior in high school, my guidance counselor presented me with a list of Ivy League schools and asked which ones I would be applying to. I told her I would think about it, and I did. I researched it on the Internet, talked to grads and current students and even went to a bunch of campuses. It was really important to me that I would be well-prepared for the business world, but at the same time I also really wanted to have a positive college experience – unlike high school where I was just a workaholic.
I outwardly wanted to go to an Ivy League school because that’s what my parents and friends expected of me, but inside I just wanted to be with a different class of people. I felt like my whole high school experience had been less than genuine and I really wanted to explore myself in college. I felt that going to an Ivy League school meant working like crazy for another four years while accumulating mountains of debt and that wasn’t something that I wanted to do.
The turning point in my decision-making process came one day when I was sitting in the guidance counselor’s office for a mandatory college-planning conference. I picked up a brochure for the City University of New York. I flipped it open and there was a tuition chart showing that a year’s tuition was $2,500. I started wondering just how bad it would be to go to the City University, anyway. I then saw a piece of paper in the middle of the book with a picture of several friendly-looking students and a letter saying that the City University was looking for more suburban honors students, and would provide scholarships for those that qualified. After my meeting with the guidance counselor, I started talking to people who went to CUNY – our accountant, our doctor and some family friends. They all said that it was a fine experience.
I went and visited the business school (Zicklin), and I met a lot of really cool, casual, down-to-earth people. I specifically met people in the Honors Program. They were all suburban high-achievers who, like me, were tired of the academic rat-race and wanted to do their own thing while still getting a quality education without accumulating debt. I also met the dean, who used to be a dean at Columbia, and he was saying how he likes CUNY so much better because there isn’t that sense of entitlement and competition that you get over there. Lastly, I stopped by the cafeteria and I met several cute girls who I really hit it off with. They were just the opposite of the unapproachable Prada-wearing, cliquish girls that I was used to.
So I went to the guidance counselor and told her that I was going to CUNY, and that there was no need to apply to all of those expensive schools. To make a long story-short, I got a great education for very little debt, made some good friends and never regretted it for a second.
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