As a high school student in Texas, I luckily had many great options for college. When trying to decide on which college to attend, I narrowed it down to The University of Texas (UT) and The University of Texas Dallas (UTD). Below are the main factors I personally considered before deciding to attend The University of Texas Dallas.
To be very frank, UTD called me to offer a scholarship and I was thankful for the opportunity. Determined to go into medicine, I am already prepared for a life of student debt, so I greatly appreciated a chance to lessen this financial burden. UT had less scholarship opportunities to offer me. While this factor certainly played a part in my decision to choose UTD, it was not my main motivation. I have listed this as the first factor, purely to be transparent and get it out of the way. Had I been offered equal scholarships, I still would have chosen UTD.
UTD has a lower student population than UT, but if you look up class sizes, the publicly available statistics showed that similar results and ratios. But, statistics are more representative of average class size and what I really needed to know was the typical class size for my future classes as a pre-med student. I researched the publicly available course schedules for both universities and sought out anecdotes of current college students. I determined that UTD had smaller class sizes in the courses I would take (i.e. biology, organic chemistry). My largest high school class was under 40 students, but college science courses often have hundreds of students. Smaller class sizes imply greater opportunity for collaboration and peer interaction. If you make the appropriate effort, a smaller class can also allow you a greater chance to get to know and engage with your professor.
Closely knit student body
UT was tempting because it offers a typical big college experience. I lived in Austin, so I knew how much love and college spirit there was for the university. While I did miss out on tailgates and college football, I have no regrets on choosing a smaller pond for college. UTD was a smaller campus than UT, so a lot of students would stay on campus to study and socialize. My classes at UTD almost felt “cohort” style, because I would often see familiar faces. I enjoyed this and even though pre-med students are inherently competitive, I felt a great sense of community. If you do not seek friends through joining clubs, talking to new people, or making other efforts, then you will feel a lack of social life no matter where you are. Actively seeking out and keeping good company allowed me to form a great support system.
While UT has a reputation that speaks for itself, UTD made a genuine effort to showcase their programs and opportunities. I received a lot of material and spoke with different program coordinators who helped inform me of the ways I could be involved at their school. I learned about the resources available to me in the honors college, the health professions advising office, the scholarship office, and more. I also learned there was an abundance of access to local hospitals, research, and clinical positions, which I knew would help me along my pathway to medicine. While I am sure that UT has many of the listed benefits, UTD had organized resources and were enthusiastic in offering me information and more opportunities to learn about their school. Their dedication to incoming and existing students felt evident. I felt very welcomed and saw a lot of potential for myself there.
When choosing colleges, you should try to be as informed as possible to make direct comparisons. This means doing significant research into the statistics (like class size), the success of alumni (graduate rate/time, medical admission rate, etc.), and even taking a campus tour if you can. Speak with current students of the college or alumni for their honest opinion and the college’s recruitment team to find out about their best programs. Look for a balance of opportunities for career advancement and your ideal social experience. In the end, college is what you make of it. Putting yourself out there, making connections, and being ambitious will allow you to feel encouraged and inspired wherever you go.