Midwestern colleges popular with New Trier grads
Recent New Trier graduate Jacquelene Britva is one of 37 members of the Class of 2012 who will be attending the Unversity of Michigan at Ann Arbor this fall. | Rob Hart~Sun-Times Media
Updated: September 3, 2012 6:04AM
WINNETKA — Jacquelene Britva applied to nearly a dozen colleges, so she had plenty of fallback schools had the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor not panned out.
Still, her nerves were tested the Friday before winter break, as some classmates at New Trier High School in Winnetka began learning by email of their acceptance to Michigan under the early-decision program. She received her notice later in the day.
“I started to freak out because my email hadn’t come yet,” said Britva, one of 37 members of New Trier’s Class of 2012 heading to the Michigan school this fall.
“Michigan has been my No. 1 choice forever,” said the teen, who wanted to stay in the Midwest and thought Michigan would be a good fit. She hopes to enroll by her sophomore year in the university’s Ross School of Business to study marketing.
The latest crop of roughly 1,000 New Trier High School graduates will head to 234 colleges and universities in the next six weeks. Many students will remain in Illinois or Midwestern states.
The largest group of grads are the 80 headed to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Indiana University at Bloomington will be home to 43 graduates, while the University of Iowa is the choice of 38 students.
The University of Michigan is fourth at 37, followed by the 32 headed to Northwestern University. Another 28 plan to attend Oakton Community College in DesPlaines.
For students heading out of the Midwest, the top choices are the University of Colorado in Boulder, with 20, Vanderbilt University in Nashville with 19 and the University of Vermont with 14.
Jim Conroy, who chairs the post-secondary counseling department at New Trier, said an unusually large number graduates applied this year to the University of Minnesota at Twin Cities in Minneapolis. In the face of a demographic downturn, the school lowered its tuition for out-of-state students, becoming less costly than the University of Illinois for students pursuing engineering and other disciplines. Dozens of New Trier students applied and 12 plan to attend.
New Trier, like other area high schools, subscribes to Naviance, a program that plugs in certain criteria and returns a list of compatible schools. It also provides a visual reality check: A scattergram plotting the GPAs and college-admission test scores of New Trier students who’ve been accepted and rejected by the institution.
“What we try to do is fill in the intangibles,” Conroy said, trying to determine which schools are realistic and which ones are a reach.
“There are a lot more schools out there than the same old ones everyone keeps hearing about,” said Conroy, whose department’s motto is that “College is a match to be made, not a prize to be won.”
Conroy recently met with a father who would only consider the University of Wisconsin at Madison among the Wisconsin schools. “I had to say, ‘Your son is not going to be admitted to the University of Wisconsin at Madison with the grades and test scores he has now.’”
Financial considerations also are a key piece of the equation, with Conroy noting it’s unwise to apply only to $60,000-a-year schools.
Using Northwestern as an example, Conroy noted that tuition is $42,000 and room and board another $13,000.
“Right away, you have $55,000. Add another $4,000 for books and supplies and personal expenses and you are just under $60,000 at Northwestern for this year.
“Do they offer wonderful financial aid? Yes, they do,” he said, referring to aid awarded based on need. But the only scholarships not based on financial need are for athletics. “There are no scholarships because you are a great student at Northwestern.”
Britva found Naviance helpful, but also daunting.
“There are some kids who didn’t get in who had really high grades,” she said. “I think it also comes down to the person and what you are involved in,” said Britva, who played girls’ ice hockey and was also the sports editor for the school newspaper.
The college essay for Michigan asked applicants to describe a community in which they took part, and their individual contribution. “They want to see you more as a person and how you contribute to society,” Britva said.
Ann Arbor is close enough to Chicago that she can come home occasionally for a short visit without booking a flight.
“Flying becomes very expensive,” said Britva, who also feels comfortable in the Midwest. “Growing up in the Midwest, you are used to it. You are familiar with the people, and the weather.”