Throughout the college process I made a point to steer clear of having a “Top Choice.” I was diligent with myself to not get too attached to anything, to the point where I treated the entire school search as a case study. I took in all the information about each school, but stopped myself from inserting myself into the picture. This helped me through the ordeal of the college application process. It didn’t prepare me for dealing with getting admitted.
Once my admission results came in, the fact that I was going SOMEWHERE became suddenly real. I had the really fortunate problem of having many choices that all were good options for me. But, once you pass the threshold of knowing exactly when you get into a certain school that you’re going, the process can become far more agonizing than one might expect.
Yes, we’ve all heard it. Choose the school at which you see yourself happiest. But how the heck can somebody predict that? At the end of the day, you only go to ONE college. After all the tours and interviews, tests and circular conversations with your mom, there’s a Tuesday morning next year you’re going to wake up in an unknown spot and eat a pop tart you found in the microwave because you accidently left it in there from the night before (or it might just be me.) The point is, no one detail about a school is going to make or break it. The real question is: where do you want to wake up for both the extraordinary and the ordinary?
We can’t read the future, and when making a decision it’s easy to concoct our own views of a school and judge them accordingly. Try your best to find the most candid perspectives from students of the school, and of people who aren’t all very like-minded. Ask what they don’t like and ask what their favorite part is. Don’t be afraid to hear what they dislike, there’s going to be some things that aren’t going to work for people, aren’t going to work for YOU and it’s so difficult to foresee those things from this very limited glimpse you’re getting of each school. Do your best to put aside the image of any school that you’ve made in your head throughout months or maybe through years of gathering snapshots and stereotypes. Try to see reality, and imagine where you’d fit into that image starting next fall.
For most incoming college students, it’s the first time your home will also be your school. Try to place weight on both of sides of that coin, and make sure to give extra attention to the home aspect of things. The truth is, you have to be comfortable living somewhere before you’ll be academically successful. Pick a place where you feel like you could fully be your own.
Whether good or bad news: high school is not going to matter pretty soon. Don’t let yourself be swayed by the flash, comparison, or decisions of your peers. I go to a real tiny school and the folks I went to high school with are just as involved in my life as I want them to be (not a whole lot.) I’d challenge you to not get caught up in who’s going where and what that might mean. This decision is about you and nobody else; it’s about your well-being, and flourishing.
Lastly, you are trying your very best at a very difficult task. Try to be extra caring toward yourself in the whole decision-making process. At the end of the day, your path will play out in the only way it can. No matter how many pros and cons lists, or hopeless meandering on Unigo, trust a decision will present itself and with it, a major accomplishment you should be so incredibly proud of.
Felicia Fahey PhD
Felicia is a comprehensive educational consultant. She works with college bound students of all ages close to home, across the country and around the globe.