Unconventional Research

As most college freshmen were, I was at one point a high school senior. This involved everything that we all remember all too clearly: SATs, ACTs, weighted and unweighted GPAs, extracurriculars, innumerable college visits, endless pamphlets, countless websites, “fast fact” after “fast fact,” and everything else that went into figuring out where I was going to end up at college. For quite a while, I had no idea where I would be going the following year, and part of that was a lack of research. I had a great list of schools I might go to. I knew which schools I could likely get into, and which would be more of a reach. But I didn’t know which, if any, I actually wanted to go to. All my friends were talking about their first choice, their second choice, even their third choice schools, and I still hadn’t figured out if I really liked any of mine very much. I just didn’t know enough.

I was very fortunate in terms of acceptances. Of my whole list, only one school rejected me. However, I don’t say this to show off, but because it actually posed a huge problem for me that will be integral to this post: I was paralyzed by choice. My parents kept telling me that they were all good options for me, and my guidance counselor said the same thing. I didn’t want to ask my friends, because I didn’t want them to think I had no idea what was going on (and let’s be honest, what would they know about schools they’d never been to anyway?). I found myself on my own, and this is where my “unconventional research” came into play.

My mom and I scheduled a number of trips to schools, mostly for accepted student days, and even a couple of overnight stays with current students. These trips were absolutely critical for me, because I knew that I was going to have to decide where I spent the next four years of my life based on them, so I took each one very seriously.

We often think of research as searching through databases for the right journal or hunting through the library for that one book, but I would count what I was doing as research too. On each campus, I tried to understand the school as best I could, trying to decide if I could see myself there. My research consisted of talking to students, and not polling them, but normal conversation, getting a feel for what their life was like, imagining myself walking from class to class, looking at student centers and public spaces.

What I found, obviously, was that I liked Emory the best. The students seemed happy, I liked the campus enough that I didn’t think I’d get tired of walking around it, the DUC seemed good, and the library was nice. These are things that I couldn’t have found on any website or in any college guidebook. These are things that can only be determined from firsthand experience. And this is how research has shaped me.

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2 thoughts on “Unconventional Research

  1. I like how you’ve written about something everybody can relate to. College was part of everybody’s research and you actually had the opportunity to go and visit the college you thought about going to. I too visited Emory and went around campus and spoke to some students and figured out that this would be a good place to college as there is enough to do and i didn’t think i would get bored. I also found the fact that you wanted to research to show that you knew what you were doing and didn’t want to look lost in front of your friends. That’s how research or reading any type of material really helps people. This has really shown how research has helped you make an important decision in your life.

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  2. I think this is a really interesting take on the common perception of what research is. I think you are definitely correct that research extends far beyond hunting through endless searches on JSTOR, Ebsco, Lexis Nexis, or whatever it may be, but rather research is simply a search for knowledge through whatever means necessary. Your description of your though process you went through while at each college is pretty interesting because it allows the reader to understand the values you find important at any location and how your prioritized certain features such as food quality, student happiness, distance between classes, and the library. I think the one area for improvement in this piece is the addition of detail about how you went about your analysis once on campus at any given school. By this I mean, what made you decide that the DUC is good? Did you find it really impressive, or just good compared to alternatives offered at other schools? What made the students seem happy? What did you like about the library? I think that addition of detail would make this solid post, a really clear and concise depiction of your thought process while researching any subject.

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