Like many seniors across the country, the members of our Collegewise class of 2007 are making their final college selections before the May 1 deadline. And more than any class we can remember, they seem to be wrestling with their choices, seeking our advice about which college will really be the right choice for them. That’s something we love to see because it means…
1. In spite of all the bad news, seniors are still getting accepted to colleges. They have choices.
2. Our seniors giving this decision the time and attention that it deserves.
If you’re in a wrestling match with your college choices and are struggling to make the right decision, we’ve got a few tips that might help a little.
1. Recognize that it’s OK to be unsure.
For most seniors, choosing the college you will attend will likely be the biggest decision you’ve had to make in your life. Big life decisions–whether or not to change jobs, where to buy a house, when to have kids–always come with a little uncertainty. So don’t expect to be 100% certain. You likely won’t be 100% sure you made the right choice until you get there and see for yourself.
2. Don’t focus on the wrong things.
Don’t choose a college because of where it is ranked on the US News list (rankings change every year!). Don’t choose your college because it’s supposedly "better" than the other schools that accepted you. And don’t choose a college because your friends are going there. Those reasons may seem legitimate now, but they won’t once you actually get to college.
3. Focus on the right thing–yourself.
Choosing a college is one time in your life when it’s OK to be a little bit selfish because you are the one who will spend four years at that school. So think about what makes you excited about being in college. Think about what you want your college experience to be like. Think about how you like to learn and what kinds of environment would make you happy. And listen to your gut instinct because it’s usually right. The more you think about (and listen to) yourself, the more clearly you’ll see which college is actually the best fit.
4. Seek advice from people you trust.
Yes, you should focus on yourself and what you want. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t seek advice from people you know and respect. Your parents, your older siblings, and your college counselor know you well and want you to be happy. Tell them what you’re thinking and what parts of the decision you’re struggling with. Carefully consider their thoughts and advice in addition to your own instincts. The decision should still be yours, but that doesn’t mean you have to make it alone.
5. Accept that college will be what you make of it.
No matter how hard you try, you will not pick the perfect college, because the perfect college does not exist. You’re going to have to work every day to make your college experience perfect for you. Like most big life decisions, some days in college will be wonderful, and some days will be trying. But if you commit yourself to making your relationship with your college work, you’re going to have a wonderful four years. Do don’t stress yourself out looking for the perfect college. Instead, look for the one that’s as close to perfect for you as you can find, and then get excited about making your experience a great one once you get there.