The proper college fit can save your life

campuslife_smAnna, a junior at Valley Regional High School, in Essex, Connecticut, asked, “I know college is a big deal. But why is it such a big deal to choose the right college.”   I told her this story.

I left Penn Law School and started my legal career in the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office. One of the senior district attorneys, George, also a Penn Law alum, called me into his office. “Do me a favor. I’m in charge of alumni fundraising. I need you to spend a couple of nights at the Penn call center.” My subconscious must have betrayed my efforts to appear cheerful as he immediately noticed that I was not happy with the request.

“I get it. You don’t have the same love for your law school as you do for your college. Law school was professional training but college was life training.” George continued. In a previous discussion, I told him how much my undergraduate experience at Georgetown shaped my character.

“Haverford College saved my life.” George said, in what seemed to be an overly dramatic statement. He then went on to discuss how he was a top student but also a wild 18 year old. “I likely would have dropped out or been kicked out of college had Haverford not been such a wonderful place. I know I would have partied too much at a state school and if I didn’t have a good community I probably would have left on my own. I definitely would not have learned to love reading and writing so much and I probably never would have gone to law school.  But remember where I can from – George referenced his upbringing from the tough streets of Philly – had I dropped out of college, I would have been back on the streets and probably dead.”

So I suppose it was not an exaggeration to say that Haverford saved George’s life.

The lesson for Anna is that the fit that one has for a college makes an enormous difference for not only the four years but for life