Culture and “school fit” are closely interrelated — and if you’re doing research to learn about the school only for the purpose of having some things to plug into your essay, you’re doing it wrong.
School fit is not just about you convincing them that you belong there.
It’s at least as much about you discovering what a school is about, in order to get excited by that school and figure out if it’s a place you will thrive.
Schools to some extent are interchangeable — they all offer the same degree — but the way they approach the process of education, and the type of person who is attracted by that offer enough to put in the work to apply there, and get accepted, and then decide to go there over other choices… That’s where the interesting parts come out.
Each school may offer the same degree, but you’ll learn through your research that the schools attract different types.
It’s an intangible thing, and tough to talk about, not because we’re trying to be mystical or whatever, but just that it comes through when you experience a place firsthand.
That’s probably the biggest disappointment with all this coronavirus stuff. It’s not that you can’t get a feel for a school through a Zoom, because you can. But it’s certainly not the same thing as visiting and talking to lots of students and going through that whole experience.
The schools are doing what they can to offer substitutions for that, to make themselves as accessible as possible to all of you — and the innovations are surprising, and we’re betting that a lot of them stick and end up becoming standard in the process even after coronavirus restrictions are gone.
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Again, culture — and also values — can sometimes feel intangible, but when a school like Berkeley puts such an emphasis on their principles, then it helps you to know who they are.
And, as another aspect of all that self-reflection and introspection you’re doing as you seek to do a good job on the essays, then this gives you new insight into a school and how they might be a good choice for you as you seek to improve yourself through higher education.
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