Essential Information for the College Bound -- Fall 2007

Which School?

You will live with the answer
the rest of your life.

Taking The Next Step
12904 Mizner Way
Wellington, FL 33414
(561) 790-5462
Robin Abedon
web site: TakingThe NextStep


When I first meet a student, I am very interested to learn what colleges he and his parents have considered and what has prompted their interest. Most often we have to work from that beginning to a reality check, answering questions that hone in on colleges that will provide a good match.


What are the student's academic credentials? What are the areas of academic interest? What kind of a college does the student envision? How does the student learn best? Is he/she an active learner, a passive learner? Would small classes work better than larger classes? Would knowing professors, assisting them on research, participating with them in projects outside of course work be an opportunity? Would anonymity suit him/her better? How much academic challenge does the student seek? Is he/she comfortable in a competitive setting, or one where collaborative learning is the rule? Does the student seek a campus where "community" is strong, where students are involved in a variety of activities, social, athletic and civic? Or does he/she prefer to have less involvement? Is it important to get to know peers with different backgrounds? Should that school be close to home, or in a new geographic location? Should it be in a city? Should it be near a city or in a rural area? Should it have a contained campus? Is size a consideration?


Then we have to work through the name brand issue. Is a student willing to explore schools he/she has never heard of to discover those that might be appropriate? Can we welcome new possibilities that student, parent and counselor can consider with shared enthusiasm?


And as we consider various issues, I search for their answers to the question: why is a college education - at a suitable college - important? The answers can reflect a wide divergence of perspective. At one extreme is the view that a college education must prepare a student for a specific career; at the other end of the spectrum is the view that college is a time to open minds to the past, the present and the future.

In her October, 2007 inaugural address, Harvard University's new president, Drew Gilpin Faust, said:

"A university is about learning that molds a lifetime. We strive to understand who we are, where we came from, where we are going and why. For many people, the four years of undergraduate life offer the only interlude permitted for unfettered exploration of such fundamental questions. But the search for meaning is a never-ending quest that is always interpreting and redefining the status quo, always looking, never content with what is found. An answer simply yields the next question. This is in fact true of all learning, of the natural and social sciences as well as the humanities, and thus of the very core of what universities are all about."


In November, I visited a number of California's outstanding private colleges, including the five Claremont Colleges: Pomona, Claremont McKenna, Harvey Mudd, Pitzer and Scripps. While the schools form a consortium located on a common campus, each has its own identity and focus.

Claremont McKenna (CMC) is known for its emphasis in economics, government and international relations. It is self-described as offering “education and training you need to succeed,” where “students are goal oriented, career-focused, driven.…[but] it will give you a lot more than a job…A CMC education will teach you to think analytically and critically…and to revise and refine your thoughts in the process. To grow as a thinker.”

Harvey Mudd offers undergraduate programs in engineering, science and mathematics, while also emphasizing the humanities and social sciences. It prepares its students to “assume leadership in their fields with a clear understanding of the impact of their work on society.”

Each school helps its students achieve distinctive measurable goals, but the intangible goals are shared. These are two of the five colleges, all of which prize learning that enriches individuals, as they seek to build meaningful lives.


It is always my goal to honor the practical results that students and parents expect to gain from a college education. However, it is also my fervent hope that they will see the university as a place where students will challenge themselves to think deeply about our world and how knowledge of the past, gained through studying the humanities, will help them to contribute to making the world a better place. Certainly, I do not believe these expectations are mutually exclusive. Indeed, the college experience that stretches the mind while helping the student to develop a career focus is often the best match of all.