The great thing about freshman year is that everyone is new and everyone is looking for friends.
So you’re about to make what is probably one of the biggest decisions you’ve faced thus far: where to go to college. I remember thinking to myself, “I barely chose my course schedule this year, and now I’m supposed to choose a school? Say what?! I’m so not qualified for this life decision. How do you even start to approach such a decision? What should sway you one way or another?”
While knowing what you should take into account is important, knowing what you shouldn’t consider can be just as helpful. Here are six things that shouldn’t play a big role in your decision-making process.
• Friends: What’s great about freshman year of college is that everyone’s new and everyone’s looking for friends. Seriously, this is an experience that’s truly unique to these years. You’re going to be taking classes together, eating together, living together — in other words, you’re going to meet some new people.
Definitely value your high school friends, but don’t shoot down a great school just because everyone you know is going somewhere else. Yeah, it may seem scary now, and you may have a serious case of FOMO, but come Thanksgiving break, you’ll be glad you did it.
• Difficulty: Um, school’s supposed to challenge you, right? Otherwise, why spend all of this money on something — to quote Will Hunting — “You could have got for a dollar fifty in late charges at the Public Library?” Oh, Will.
So if you get into a tough program, accept that challenge. You’re not gonna be out there on an island — everyone else will be in the same boat as you — and there are resources out there to help (writing centers, tutors, advisers). Better to rise to meet the occasion than to find yourself bored after a year and wanting to transfer to a more challenging school.
• Food: Yeah, OK, maybe your dream school doesn’t have the best dining hall food. But that is not a reason not to go there. See if you can skip the meal plan and get your own food. Or look at it this way: It’s amazing that you’re going to have meals prepared for you for the next four years of your life. (Plus, there’s always the unlimited fro-yo). After that, you’re on your own and you can make yourself stale fries and soggy hamburgers all day long.
• Mascot: Harvard’s mascot is “John Harvard” — aka a pilgrim. Enough said.
• Significant other: Since the future is unknown, consider this: Is this a school you would choose for yourself if the other person weren’t in the picture? Would you be happy here if you were to break up? Tough call, I know, but you never know what’s going to happen, so don’t let your mate dictate your future. There’s Thanksgiving and Christmas break — not to mention the summers — to be together.
• Ranking: If it’s the difference between the 14th best Northeastern small liberal arts college and the 15th — not a deal breaker. Schools shift position year after year as they vie for the higher slot. If it’s the difference between the 1st and the 122nd — OK, yeah, something to think about.
Remember, while this is a big decision, what’s actually going to make or break your experience is how you choose to approach it. It’s up to you to make the best of the years to come — to join clubs, to reach out and meet people, to explore different classes and experiences. And the good news is that you can do this wherever you end up. It may seem like a daunting decision, but ask for advice and keep an open mind. You can do it.
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