The college “why?”

College applicants, as you’re finalizing your college lists and brainstorming your essays and organizing your list of application to-do’s, here’s a question you may not have considered.

Why are you going to college?

I’m not suggesting that you reconsider your path, especially before you even submit applications to give yourself the choice to attend. But many students grow up knowing that college after high school is a foregone conclusion. It’s what’s necessary. It’s what’s expected. It’s what they and their families have worked for. And much as you wouldn’t get married without some sense of why you’re making that commitment, college is an investment of time and money that’s worthy of asking, “Why?”

Whatever your answer to that question, it will help clarify your goals. It will help you (re)evaluate your list of schools. It will help you answer questions about why you’ve chosen to apply to particular colleges, what you hope to gain from the experience, and how you plan to make yourself successful.

Knowing your “why” will likely improve your chances of admission to the right college for you.

Maybe you’re applying because you want to be an engineer and you need the education to pursue that dream. Maybe you love physics and want to take that interest to a reasonable extreme. Maybe you want to discover your interests and talents, or learn from people different from you, or begin navigating the world on your own as you’ll need to do as an adult.

There are few wrong answers to the question as long as you’re thoughtful and sincere in your response.

And if you struggle to find an answer, here’s an exercise that might help. Imagine the option of attending any college at all is suddenly taken away from you in perpetuity. If you’d be somewhere between disappointed and crestfallen, ask yourself (here comes that word again) why.

Your reasons will probably give you some clear insight into your answer to the college “why?”