I've made a living doing public speaking almost since the day I graduated from college. But I never knew I was any good at it until that one day in college when I ran for an office in my fraternity and we had to get up and give a speech. I learned something about myself that day (I would also later learn that "Rush Chair" is a pretty thankless job in a fraternity, but that's not really the point).
In “Making the Most of College,” a Harvard education professor interviewed more than 1600 undergraduates about what had been their deepest, most meaningful college experiences. When he asked students to think of a specific experience that changed them profoundly, four-fifths of them chose something that happened outside of the classroom.
Yes, colleges are like academic supermarkets where you can study anything that interests you. But don't forget about the opportunities for self-discovery that take place in college, too. What you learn in your psychology class may not ultimately be as life-changing as that one day the professor told you that she saw great potential in your work. The one internship you get over the summer, or the time you spend writing for the school paper, or the research you do with a professor, or the volunteer work you do at a local non-profit, your college experience will give you a lot of opportunities to discover your talents, likes, dislikes and potential life paths.
At Collegewise, we tell our kids all the time that it's not where you go to college, it's what you do while you're there. If you spend your college years putting yourself in the positions to have these kinds of self-discoveries, you'll find them. I don't care where you go to school–the famous colleges do not dole out life-changing experiences with any more efficiency than the non-famous ones
That's an importing thing to keep in mind as you're searching for colleges. Remember that the college rankings don't take these experiences into consideration. The websites and literature and tour guides can't tell you what your discoveries will be. But your chances to find them for yourself will be waiting for you wherever you go.
And if you're a senior who's starting to receive your college news, remember that if your dream school says "No," you'll still have these life-changing moments in college. You'll just be doing it somewhere else. It doesn't matter where you have them; lives change at lots of colleges.