April 13, 2017
The Light at the End of the Tunnel
I’d like you to think back to a year ago (back when you still believed that junior year was going to be the hardest…lol) and appreciate the vast distance you have covered. You have gone from figuring out what type of college might be a good fit and considering possible majors to actually applying to specific schools and programs. You have written essay upon essay, filled out form upon form, and you probably never want to meet another tour guide again (though you totally want to be one next year). I’ve got good news for you–the end is in sight!
In my time working at a high school, I was always surprised by how many students were still deciding in late April which college to attend. So if you haven’t settled on a choice yet, no worries! That’s completely normal! Still, you may be wondering you should consider as you make the big decision. Here’s a list of things that I (and some of my college counseling colleagues) recommend thinking about:
Which college will challenge me the most?
We’re talking a reasonable challenge here–I’m not suggesting you go to a school that doesn’t offer your major or one where you would be taking classes in a language you don’t understand! But perhaps one of your choices offers you the opportunity to live somewhere new, interact with diverse classmates, and/or push you to try something different. If so, it’s well worth considering! Many students gravitate toward the campus where they “feel at home,” but give the path not taken its due! You want to be supported, but you grow the most when you’re pushed out of your comfort zone.
How much will it cost and is it worth it?
Let’s not forget that college is an investment. Not only should you keep in mind how much attendance will cost your family over the next four years, but also what you might take on in debt. A reasonable amount of student debt isn’t a bad thing, but you should be aware of what you will owe and decide if the benefits outweigh the costs. I know it’s hard to predict how you will feel 4+ years down the road, but an education is neither the place to skimp nor splurge. Which school will be the best investment in the long run?
What would I do there?
Try to picture yourself as a student, What classes will you take? What clubs will you join? What opportunities will you have? The more specific you get, the more you can distinguish deciding factors. A great piece of advice from one of my counseling colleagues is to pretend like you have made your decision for a day. Spend a day thinking about X University as if you were making plans to go, then the next as if you were going to Y College. The more you can envision yourself there, the easier it is to see if it’s the right place.
What do I think vs. what do my parents/friends/counselors/US News and World Report/College Confidential think?
If you remember my post from last fall (which obviously you do, right?), one of the hardest things to do in this process is balance the good advice of people who know you well with your own intuition and knowledge. No decision should be made in a vacuum, but no decision should be made in a mosh pit either. Get the perspectives you respect and need, but beware of simply adopting the opinions of others. Another counselor I’ve worked with recommends sorting out what makes you happy from what you think should make you happy. You’re going to be in college for four years, and that’s substantial! Figure out what’s important to you and pick the college that best aligns with your needs and wants.
What does my head say? What does my heart say?
As with most decisions, there is a place for logic and a place for passion. They may align, or one may win out over the other. Just make sure you’re aware of the impact each has on your decision.
Who do I want to be?
Woah! That got real heavy real fast (but roll with me). As you wrote your essays and decided which schools would be on your list, you were faced with a very important question: who am I? Now you are faced with an equally difficult question: who do I want to be? Think about your values and your goals. Which college makes the most sense in that context? The next four years will shape you–what might you like that shape to be? (My vote is a hexagon, but that’s just me.)
This is where I put a disclaimer: we want you at USC. We admitted you because we think you would be amazing here. Still, we know you have a great group of choices and that one of your other options might be a better fit for you. Our sincere hope is that, wherever you end up committing, you feel you made the right decision.
Good luck and fight on!