Congratulations to Katriana Meiman, winner of the $2500 College Raptor scholarship! Kat wrote the winning essay in round 16 of College Raptor’s Scholarship program. We had a chance to chat with her about her college journey and here’s what she had to say.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I live just outside of Washington DC, with my mom, my sister, and my crazy one-eared cat named Midnight. I am graduating a year later than originally planned because I have a neurological disorder that caused me to miss over 3 years of school. Between that and COVID, I’ve spent a lot of time in my room over the past 6 years and am very excited for the next chapter of my life to start. I’m interested in anime, Reiki, and psychic phenomena, and I love to dress up in bright, crazy outfits. I hope to become a physical therapist so that I can help kids who have the same neurological disorder as me.
Tell us about your college search journey.
When I was a junior and started really thinking about the college search, I was overwhelmed. There were thousands of schools to choose from and I had no idea how to narrow them down. But then my sister suggested that I check out the College Raptor site, and that really helped a lot. The “Find a College” tool helped me think through some of the few key factors I should consider, like number of students, city size, and distance from home. By using that tool I was able to narrow the options down to a manageable list. Then I reviewed each one’s profile, and eliminated some based on factors like first-year retention rate and religious affiliation.
I am really grateful to College Raptor, because it suggested that I look at the University of Mary Washington. I had never even heard of UMW but based on College Raptor’s recommendation I went to visit it – and loved it. Now I am enrolled to start there next fall!
What College Raptor tool (s) did you use?
I started with the “Find a College” tool. I used that to develop a list of about 30 possible schools, and then I did a “deep dive” into each of their profiles. Using the data in the profiles, I developed a spreadsheet that listed factors like retention rate, graduation rates, and percentage of students who lived on-campus, so that I could compare them easily. I also looked at the “Nearby Comparable Colleges” and added a couple schools to my list based on that. I checked out the links to the various schools’ social media posts, and looked at the Estimated Net Price. (As I mentioned in my essay, College Raptor’s estimated net price for UMW was within $300 of what I will actually be paying next year.)
What have been any challenges you have faced in the process?
The biggest problem was not being able to visit any colleges during COVID. Getting a feel for a college’s “vibe” was really important to me, and it was impossible to do that without visiting while students were on campus. Also, getting the applications in on time while also doing my schoolwork made last fall rather stressful.
What are you most looking forward to in college?
I am really excited to live right down the hall from friends and classmates, and to have more independence. Also, I’ll get to learn more about subjects I really enjoy, and hang out with people who share a lot of my interests.
What’s a piece of advice you would give to an upcoming HS graduate?
I spent a lot of time figuring out where I wanted to apply, and visiting schools. It was a lot of work – especially on top of my classwork – but it was worth it. If I hadn’t invested that time, I probably would have ended up at a college that was either better known, or had a strong reputation for my specific major. While those are great schools, I don’t think they would have been nearly as good a fit for me.
Given that, here are three pieces of advice I’d give to someone who is just starting the college search process.
- When you’re a senior, make the college search and application process a higher priority than your schoolwork, because it’s setting the direction for the next four or more years of your life (whereas your homework only matters for the next few weeks.)
- There are a lot of great colleges that you have probably never heard of. So start by asking yourself some key questions about the size, location, and environment you are looking for. Tools like College Raptor can really help with that. Asking those questions will help you narrow down the thousands of possible colleges to a few dozen, and then you can look at them individually to determine what works with your budget and where you will be happiest and most successful.
- Don’t assume that your in-state public colleges will always be cheaper than private colleges. Many private colleges have a lot more scholarship funds to give out than state schools do. So in the end they could be less expensive than state colleges. But you have to put a lot of time into your applications so that private colleges will be willing to invest scholarship funds in you.
Congratulations again, Katriana! If you’re interested in winning College Raptor’s $2,500 scholarship like Kat, check out the information page!