I'm reading Jaques Steinberg's The Gatekeepers, a book about the admissions process. I was amused that the first chapter focused on Ralph, an admissions officer, and his "Tortilla Test" for choosing a work location: "He...checked out a local grocery store and was disappointed to discover that the only food available in the Mexican section was called 'burrito kit.'"
Just as Ralph had his Tortilla Test to determine location suitability for his job, I have had other students use similar “tests” to determine their best college location.
I had one student who ranked states this way:
Another student pulled up a map of Adderall abuse in the United States. She said, look at this map. See the big circles? I don’t want to go any where near there. Despite this incredibly high-achieving student’s goals—great school with great CS program—she was also incredibly laid back and tired of the overly stressed students at her school. As a founder of the “Stress Less, Laugh More” campaign at her high school, this map allowed her to home in on the schools that spoke to her intense academic goals and her desire for less stress: Stanford and USC and not Princeton or Yale.
A third student pulled up a map of Starbucks and Walmarts by state and said, "I do not want to go to school in a Walmart state." After talking with her, I realized she wanted a progressive school in a metropolitan area.
There are, of course, detriments to using bifurcated metrics like these—this but not that, these but not those—as they don’t allow for shades of grey. However, as a counselor, I do appreciate that these students, like Ralph, have a sense of who they are and what they want, and can find a map of metric to use as a starting point.
A College Counselor who asks and answers the tough questions.