Shimada Talks GPA, and Why She Avoided Texas for College

December 12, 2013

The Zoetics

Drawing by Jacob Lutz

Drawing by Jacob Lutz

Master Shimada: Lighting a Fire Under Your Essays Since 1998

Twice a semester, Project Manager Nadyne Shimada will terrify the seniors with a column packed with everything they should have completed ages ago.  This month, she talks about the nitty gritty of choosing a college. 

By Nadyne Shimada

Tick, tock, seniors! It is December and the middle of the college application cycle. For those of you who ignored my advice and have not submitted a single college application, get started immediately! You cannot attend college if you never apply and, despite the fact that your parents love you, they do not want you to lie around the living room playing video games for the rest of your life. In February, you will be submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to colleges so knowing where to send this information will be helpful.

While some of you just procrastinate, I know there are several of you who have no idea where to apply because you are clueless and do not know how to narrow your choices. This column is for you.

Here are a few rules of thumb:

1. Apply to five schools – two stretch, two ‘probables’, and one sure thing. “Stretch” schools are those whose average ACT/SAT scores and GPAs are higher than your statistics. These are generally selective schools. If your ACT/SAT score and GPA fall pretty close to the school’s average, then you can consider your acceptance as “probable”. “Sure thing” schools are generally the state institutions that grant you admission as long as you meet the minimum requirements (graduate, breathe, find your way home).

2. Begin eliminating schools by geographic area and weather conditions. For example, I am not a fan of tornados, hurricanes, blizzards, extreme heat, humidity, or rain in excess of 15-inches per year. That automatically rules out the Pacific Northwest, the Midwest, and the east coast. I eliminated Texas because I was served a chile relleno made out of green bell pepper. I can handle earthquakes and dry heat.

3. Eliminate schools based on size. Think about this carefully. You attend The ASK Academy where the majority of our classes have about 15 scholars. Our expectation is for you to collaborate with peers, ask questions, and develop products that demonstrate concepts. How would you do at UNM where classes can have 300 people, you take notes, read the book, and your grade is based on a couple of multiple-choice tests? Many of you would go to your lecture, take notes, go to the Sub and listen to music or watch a video, go to your next class, then go home. Some of you would go through the entire day and not speak to a single person. Class sizes, availability of the professors, and hands-on experiences will be critical to your success, so think carefully.

4. Eliminate schools based on their location. Many of you want to attend school out-of-state, in some wonderful city, which is great. However, there is a huge difference between Rio Rancho and New York City. Personally, I love urban areas where I can walk everywhere or take public transportation, and where there are multiple venues for theater, opera, and concerts, but I was born and raised in Los Angeles. Albuquerque is the first place I have ever lived that did not have a Saks Fifth Avenue or Neiman-Marcus. If these names are foreign to you, avoid large cities. If you think cows are just for eating, avoid schools in rural areas. It is true that “If you build it, they will come,” but do you really want to attend college in the middle of a cornfield? By the way, cow tipping hurts you more than the cow.

5. Eliminate schools based on the programs they offer. If you really want to spend your junior year in Spain, you need to make sure the colleges you are applying to have an exchange program. Logically, if you want to study marine biology, a school in the mid-west will lack an ocean.

6. Think about cost. I used to be the first person to say, “Don’t think about the cost,” but that was before my daughter went to college. Statistically, college is the second largest expense you will incur in your lifetime. The only milestone or object more expensive than college is a house. If you are planning on a career that requires a graduate degree, like law, medicine, dentistry, or even some engineering fields, you might want to think about saving some money and attending a state college or university. You do not want to begin graduate school with student loan debt.

7. Will you fit in? This is an interesting point to ponder. Hmmm…I did have one student, a long time ago, tell me he was being recruited to play football to Gallaudet University. I asked him if he knew sign language. “Why would I need to know sign language?” he asked. “Because 95% of the students at Gallaudet University are deaf or have hearing impairments,” I said. While this former student had selective hearing, his hearing was perfectly fine. If you need a quiet environment, or like to blast your music, I am sure this would be a good choice, but you do need to know sign language. Other than colleges and universities that appeal to candidates based on religious preferences, gender, race, “fitting in” is a somewhat vague idea based on personal preferences. Obviously, Ms. Pierce, who attended Austin College, is very tolerant of north Texas “big hair” and perky, preppy, people (notice my use of alliteration). Read the philosophy and mission statement of that college or university, look at the pictures, and consider the promotional material with the understanding that the glossy view book is meant to be persuasive.

8. I have one final suggestion: if the promotional material does not include pictures of students, go visit. One year MIT did not include any pictures of students. All I can say is, there was a reason for that choice.

I know this is a lot of information, but if all else fails, ask me where I think you should apply. I am always happy to play match-maker.

Are you curious about what is going on in the mind’s of our seniors? Check out what they have to say here!

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2 Comments on “Shimada Talks GPA, and Why She Avoided Texas for College”

  1. Karen Pierce Says:

    Lol – those are fighting words Mrs. Shimada – but yes, the hair….



  1. Seniors Share Thoughts on Final Year and Graduation | ASK Catalyst - December 12, 2013

    […] Trying to decide which college is the best fit for you? Read Ms. Shimada’s most recent column here. […]

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