Public State Universities Are Also “DREAM SCHOOLS,” Here’s Why

State universities can be "dream schools"
Large public universities are dream schools for many. (Michael Gordon/Shutterstock)

It’s college acceptance season!

Right now congratulatory emails are flooding inboxes across the country and relieved high school seniors and proud, yet nervous parents are now facing the reality of a dream they’ve been working towards for years. But for thousands of seniors with hopes of gaining acceptance into their “dream” school, this time of year can also be a brutally cruel one, because among the acceptance welcomes are plenty of “After review, we’re sorry to notify you that you’ve been denied admission” letters.  And just like that, the door is slammed on their dream of going to their dream school. 

But who and where exactly are all these dreams schools, and when did attending an elite, Ivy League, or other top tier private colleges become so incredibly desirable? So coveted in fact, that many high schoolers- both average and very high achieving, are eschewing their own public state universities, viewing them as anything but dreamy, and instead reaching for colleges with insanely selective admissions standards, as well as obscenely high tuition rates.

When did attending college at one of your public state universities become the choice of  “less than,” the  “safety school,” and even the “last resort” option? Are large, bustling, diverse, and sprawling state universities no longer desirable? Why are our students now glumly saying, “Well, I just got rejected from <private elite college> so I guess I’ll just have to end up going to state,” as if going there is a giant disappointment? 

For some reason, some students and parents alike have bought into the idea that attending an elite, Ivy, or private “reach” school is a completely dependable barometer of future success. It’s also widely (and wrongly) assumed that those particular places of higher education are all bastions of colossal intellect, and rampant with post graduate employment networking webs that state public colleges just can’t hold a candle to.

It’s as if being admitted to one of these elite colleges automatically shoots you into a more prestigious stratosphere of learning, and your bachelor’s degree from there- regardless of your grades or anything else you did while actually on campus, is immediate license for exclusive work, as well as admittance into their highly restrictive alumni groups.

For all of these reasons, we’re left with thousands of 18 year-old kids walking around right now feeling like complete failures, simply because they’ve been robbed of the chance to possess a certain piece of paper that has a certain name on it-four years from now.  

I wish more students would realize that “ending up” attending a public state university because of being denied admission to a “dream” school is not a failed option. As a matter of fact, state universities that are often able to offer resources and environments that the elite private colleges cannot.

Six Reasons Why Large Public State Schools are Dream Schools

They can be dream schools for an average student as well as a valedictorian. They can be dream schools for “first generation in college” students, as well as the sons and daughters of Ivy-educated parents. They’re perfectly capable of providing a “dream school education” for future physicians, as well as for future first grade teachers.

And they’re actually “dreamy” in all these ways as well:

1. Cheaper

In-state tuition at a public university can be a steal when compared with the average tuition at a private college. Although keep in mind that a school’s sticker price is often not the price you’ll end up paying because some private schools give out a lot of financial aid. If your grades are good enough and you do want to cross state lines to attend a nearby state school, you’ll may be able to receive an “out of state” tuition waiver. 

2. Large populations (and that’s a good thing)

Interested in underwater chess playing? There’s a club for that. As a matter of fact, the typical large state university has well over 500 student run organizations. There is something for everybody. Literally. Even shy kids who fear attending a college with 40,000 students will be able to find their small cohort of friends and interests.

3. More academic programs

State universities are able to offer a very wide selection of degree programs, as well as post graduate degrees in nearly all of their undergraduate offerings. This is ideal for students who are unsure of their major, or are looking for something very specific, or even an interdisciplinary or self-directed option. 

4. Networking, internships, and job seeking help

Large schools have large career placement centers, large career fairs, a larger internship pool to choose from, and host several job recruitment fairs right on their campuses. 

5. Resources 

From mental health counseling and multiple tutoring centers, to intramural athletics to study abroad programs, big schools have big ideas, big plans, and big budgets to make sure their students also make it big.

6. Reputation

Yes, they have one. Think your state school isn’t “good enough” to educate amazing people? Think again. Some of the most highly regarded places of higher education in this country right now are pubic state universities.  From the University of Michigan’s esteemed Ross School of Business, to the University of Alabama’s nursing program ranked 2nd nationally, to Florida State University’s #1 ranked criminal justice program.

There are plenty of elite things happening at so called non-elite schools. And that means there is plenty of dreaming for everyone.


College Wait List: The Evil Twin of Rejection

College Rejection Letter: How to Deal With No

About Melissa Fenton

Melissa Fenton is a freelance writer and adjunct librarian at Pasco-Hernando State College. Find her writing all over the internet, but her work mostly on the dinner table. Find her on Facebook 
and on twitter at @melissarunsaway

Read more posts by Melissa

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