As my fourth year at Pitt comes to a close, I continue to notice new things about campus. One degree’s duration was not enough to fully unfold the city. Although I worry I will leave still a virtual stranger, I know that’s not the case given the community I found while here. Looking back, I could not have made a better decision.
Pitt was the first school I got accepted to, but it was not the first one I fell in love with. I had one university in mind that was far-and-away my favorite. However, once I got to Pitt’s campus I could not resist Cathy’s allure; and when I went to the other campus, I found myself immediately disinterested. Therefore, I would highly suggest that students consider location when selecting a school. With the pandemic it might be impossible to visit, but virtual campus tours and Google searches can help you understand the place you might choose to call home. To me, Pittsburgh was a very appealing city both visually and in personality. Being in a city the size of Pittsburgh catered to my adventurism (whereas a smaller location would have underwhelmed me), while keeping me grounded (whereas a bigger location might have distracted me). Weighing location can help you arrive at a college decision, as it certainly did in my case.
I would also advise that you consider the degree programs available at colleges you are considering. I ultimately chose Pitt for its Global Studies Center, which afforded me the opportunity to specialize my studies with a certificate in Peace, Conflict, and Security. Pitt also had a great Turkish program, and I knew that I wanted to achieve proficiency in one of my heritage languages while at school. Choosing a university with strong and unique degree options can help ensure you get the most out of your undergraduate experience. However, also keep in mind that most college students change their degree multiple times, so it’s great to choose a school that allows for flexibility. I speak from personal experience: my pathway was Economics → Psychology → Administration of Justice → Political Science and English. I only arrived at my final choice of degree by taking courses across several departments and investigating my own interests through extracurriculars, community engagement, and networking, so it’s also important to consider outside-the-classroom and cocurricular opportunities offered at the schools you are considering.
While I suggest looking at location, student life, degree options, and other designators, I would caution against the romanticization of the college selection process. Ultimately, it is a business decision, and the overall cost should be one of the most important factors. In fact, it was the most important factor for me. When it came down to the three schools I felt compelled to attend, I chose the only one that offered me a reasonable financial aid package (and I negotiated that financial aid package using other schools’ offers). School is expensive, but it should not put you into extreme debt if you can avoid it; especially if there is any chance you want to attend graduate school. Definitely do your research and choose a school that fits your budget. Once you choose where you are attending, you can also try to get more money over the years you are there. I was able to win several scholarships while enrolled at Pitt, which actually outweighed even my initial financial aid package. There will likely be plenty of opportunities you come across to reduce your cost of attendance; at least, that was my experience at Pitt.
Regardless of where you choose to attend, find ways to get involved from your first day on campus. Four years will go by faster than you think; make the most of every moment!