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The University of Utah

Of the 10 colleges I applied to, the most impressive result was an acceptance to Johns Hopkins University, ranked the 14th best college in the country by U.S. News and World Report’s 2008 ranking.

Instead of attending this prestigious university, however, this fall will find me a mere thirty minute drive away from Park City at the University of Utah. Why turn down an incredible education at an internationally known institution? Because the education I can get at the University of Utah will probably be just as good, and will be far more flexible my needs.

"Financially, it makes a lot of sense [to go the U]," says Anna Peterson, a high school senior who will attend the U in the fall.

The U of U has given me a full-tuition merit-based scholarship. Johns Hopkins would cost (including room, board, books, and other living expenses) approximately $50,000/year.

Although I am still somewhat ambivalent in terms of concentration, almost every career I have looked at requires graduate study. With the cost of grad school looming in the distance, why graduate college $100,000 in debt?

The University of Utah will accept all 11 of my AP classes, which will translate to 48 credit hours more than 3 semesters’ worth of credit. With a year and a half of college behind me, I can take more time to study abroad, intern, and explore my options.

And if I go to the U and truly hate it, there’s always the option of transferring after my freshman year.

Unlike the U, more prestigious schools might have more rigid requirements. My mom, who went to Hopkins herself, told me that they expect you to "go to class, study, and study some more."

Granted, four ordinary years at Johns Hopkins is going to look better to graduate schools or job recruiters than four ordinary years at the University of Utah, and there will always be people who narrowly think that the name of the school you went to defines who you are as a person, but you have to look for the opportunities that are available. College is only as good as you make it.

"If you can get a better education in your field at the U, then you should go to the U," says senior Patrick Paterson. It doesn’t make sense, he says, to go to a school "just for the brand name."

"So many people think they have to go out of state to be in a good school, but that’s really not true," Peterson explains. The U offers honors programs, accelerated programs, numerous internships, studies abroad and student exchanges, and student-designed majors, among other things. After-school activities include student government, bands, radio stations, film society, newspaper, and television station, to name a few. "Obviously, it’s not just idiots that go there," says Peterson candidly.

This point is further illustrated by both the quantity and the quality of former Park City High School students who went on to attend the U of U. The most obvious example is of 2006 valedictorian Derek Painter. Of this year’s seniors, at least four of the 31 students in the top 10 percent of the class are going to the University of Utah, most notably Jenny Edwards, who will almost certainly graduate ranked third of the 313 students.

Going to the U doesn’t mean you are not going to amount to anything. Incredible technological advancements have been made from the University of Utah’s graduate research programs.

Especially with the rising emphasis on graduate education, shelling out tens, maybe even hundreds of thousands of dollars on undergraduate school doesn’t make very much sense. Why send your kid to a fancy private college when a state university is more than equipped to educate him/her well?

In the end, a person can find success with or without a "brand-name" education. Your college experience will be what you make it.


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