When houses become homes

Some close friends of mine are house hunting. And in what’s proving to be a seller’s market–where just about everyone makes offers over the selling price, waives inspections, and does pretty much anything to beat out the other interested parties–hopeful buyers are experiencing a lot of heartbreak.

The only way to seriously consider buying a house is to imagine yourself and your family in it. You see where you’d put the breakfast table, where your kids would play, and where your favorite spot to read will be. Once you put an offer in, you’re emotionally committed. Even the most rational person can’t completely detach from that connection. And if the sale goes to someone else, it’s difficult to change gears and imagine yourself in a different house. You’re still sold on your current vision.

The only way for kids to seriously consider a college, especially one that they’ve been able to physically visit, is to imagine themselves there. They see themselves enrolled in those class they visited. They see themselves painting their faces for the football games. They see themselves living in one of the dorms, joining clubs, and becoming fully-fledged members of that campus’s community.

There’s nothing wrong with that approach—it’s what serious college shoppers should do. But it also means that if you fall in love with a school and you don’t get in, it’s hard to imagine yourself someplace else. You’re still sold on your current vision.

But most heartbroken buyers eventually find their house. And once they move in, they turn that house into their home. They start living their life and creating their memories, and pretty soon, they can’t imagine themselves anyplace else.

Colleges work very much the same way. If you don’t get into what you think is your perfect college (there’s no reason your perfect college has to be one that isn’t a slam dunk, by the way), it might be hard to imagine yourself anywhere else.

But once you make that commitment to a college that said yes, once you move into a dorm, attend your first class, make your friends, and create your new life at college, you won’t be imagining yourself anyplace else. You’ll be too busy living your new life and creating your memories. It might not happen overnight. But if you put the time and energy into making it work for you, your new college will feel like it was the right one all along. That’s what happens when houses become homes.