If you’re nearing on your senior year of high school in the fall, rejoice. You’ve almost made it and you’re getting ready for the best year of your high school. Senior pictures, prom, graduation, and all of your “lasts” are things that will be truly memorable for you, trust me. But before you can get to all of that, you have to apply for college and make sure that you find the right place for you!
1. You don’t need to know exactly what you want to do yet
I’m starting college very soon and I have already changed my major(s) about 10 different times. You’ll get where you’re meant to be in the end, but it’s very okay to not know that biochemistry is your jam just yet. Most colleges have general ed classes that’ll give you some time to explore your options and see what you might be interested in before you have to make a choice.
2. It’s also okay to know exactly what you want to do
If you’ve wanted to be an orthopedic surgeon since you were five years old, more power to you. The college application process will be vastly easier for you, but make sure to use this time to compare schools and really find which program is right for you. I’ve always wanted to be a writer, but my struggle has been finding a job to pay the bills alongside that. For this reason, every school I considered at least had a creative writing program.
3. Apply to your dream school, but not just your dream school
By the end of my junior year, I only had three colleges in mind (Barnard College, Smith College, and University of Michigan). I fully intended to apply to only those three colleges. When I finally got all of my decisions back, I only got into University of Michigan and I absolutely will not be attending in the fall. It wasn’t until I went to a college fair later on that I even considered applying to Bowling Green State University. After the college fair, I applied to 6 new colleges. I cannot stress the importance of having several “safety net” schools; they could even end up being the dream school you never saw coming.
4. College visits are EVERYTHING
I toured Smith and Barnard long before college application season and fell in love with both. But as fate had it, I was not accepted into either. I was crushed, but I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. I wasn’t meant to be at either of those schools and so it was my job to decide which school I was meant to be at.
I toured BGSU on the day before Thanksgiving break and although campus was empty and quiet and cold and rainy, the tour was the most personal and friendly experience possibly ever. I felt very welcomed, like I was already part of the community. It was such a personalized experience and literally every staff member and tour guide I met were so friendly.
Looking back now, University of Michigan got somewhat of an unfair disadvantage in my books after such an incredible first experience at BG. Like BG, I toured UMich on a cold and rainy day, but that was basically all I noticed. Don’t get me wrong, University of Michigan is a beautiful campus, but the tour groups were huge and impersonal and still the only thing that I can vividly remember from the tour is seeing the mayor of Detroit, Mike Duggan, and getting way too excited. It was not the experience I was hoping for from such a prestigious university.
Visit all the schools you’re interested in. It sounds crazy, but the vibes on campus could be what makes the university or college right for you. My tour experiences ended up being how I chose my school.
5. Money isn't everything, but money is important
Many of my safety net schools were eliminated right off the bat for offering my zilch in scholarship money. They weren’t high in my rankings to begin with and it wasn’t worth paying thousands of dollars toward an education that didn’t value me enough to offer me anything to “sweeten the deal.” On the other hand, even if a school isn’t high in your rankings, DO NOT scoff at scholarships. Debt is real and if a school has your program of interest and wants to give you good money toward pursuing that, CONSIDER it.
6. Don’t let anyone choose your college for you
It’s OK to apply to the same colleges as your friends/significant other/siblings/parents, but don’t let that be what makes the decision for you. You are your own person and this is your own education. It’s okay to move away from your friends or not be a legacy at your parent’s college or be in a long distance relationship. I didn’t even apply to the college my dad went to. He’s plenty happy for me with where I’m going.
7. Consider distance, but don’t limit yourself by it
Your significant other, friends, parents, siblings, grandparents, and everyone else that actually matters will respect however close or far you choose to be. Don’t let anyone hold you back from getting the education you deserve.
For me, I wanted to be “away at college” but without being so far that I’d miss all of my younger sister’s life events. The 45-minute drive from home that takes me to BG is my perfect middle ground. Make sure you find yours!
8. Don’t choose a school to run away
I know every small town teen wants to get out of their small town as soon as they can, but don’t use college as a route to do that. Out-of-state fees are killer. You have your whole life ahead of you. You can move anywhere you want in the world after college, but save yourself some money with the education you need so you can live where you want after. It’s going to be really hard to sustain yourself far far away when you’re drowning in debt because you had to be the one to prove you can leave.
I realized that this was where part of my draw to Barnard College in NYC came from, and I’m glad I was able to see beyond that.
9. Don’t let someone else’s bad experience shape yours
My cousin went to BG for a semester and hated it. I will still be attending very soon. BG might not have been the right fit for her, but I am confident that it will be the school I’ve always wanted. Don’t let a few campus horror stories stop you from finding your fit.
10. Every school has parties, stop worrying about “party schools”
If you’re looking for a party school, stop please. Find an education that’s right for you and I guarantee you’ll find parties there too. If you’re avoiding a party school, stop please. Find an education that’s right for you and I promise you’ll be able to find some like-minded friends. You don’t have to attend parties.
I found out way late in the game that BG is considered a party school and guess what? It still has the programs I originally applied for. Imagine that.
11. Forget “brand-name” schools
I CANNOT stress this one enough. Please please please do NOT choose a school just because of its “prestige.” Congratulations if you get into Harvard or another Ivy or prestigious school, but if it doesn’t have your program, forget it. There is absolutely no point in going to a school that doesn’t offer what you are looking for just because of the name at the top of your diploma and on your bumper sticker. Sure, you’ll impress your family or friends, but please ask yourself if you’re going there because of the name of the school or the education you’ll receive.
This realization was EVERYTHING in my decision. My decision came down to University of Michigan or Bowling Green. BG was offering me several scholarships and a personalized education. UMich didn’t offer me anything other than an acceptance and congratulatory comments from acquaintances. I realized the “name-brand” effect was the only thing still drawing me to UMich. After I figured that out, there was no doubt in my mind that Bowling Green State University was the school that I would be spending the next four years of my life studying at.
I’m proud that I was able to consider all of these amazing schools as options, not everyone can say that. I don’t want to sound ungrateful. I don’t want anyone to think that someone that ended up choosing UMich or Harvard or Yale can’t get incredible educations; those schools are prestigious for a reason and you can get a fantastic education there. I am simply saying that I was never meant to be a Wolverine. I am a Falcon through and through. I chose Bowling Green State University over University of Michigan and I would do it a million times over. I wish all of you the best of luck in finding your new home.