Most high school seniors are mainly concerned about two things: finishing the year and college. For me, I didn't put too much thought into the latter. I was looking forward to graduating, but I was a little intimidated by the thought of what I was actually going to do after. Anxiety started to really kick into gear several weeks before graduating when all the students in the senior class had to fill out forms in regards to what their future plans were so it could be published in the local newspaper. That's when I heard all my peers around me discussing with utter excitement about leaving for Pitt or Penn State or OU. Then, there was me who couldn't relate, because I hadn't even applied anywhere and it was already May.
I had interest in majoring in something within the liberal arts, but where would I go? I did some research, and based my decision on how well my preferences were matched with my findings on certain colleges. I was interested in going somewhere outside of my hometown (that took Pitt, Duquesne, and Point Park out of the picture) and was actually a decent size school. Small, private colleges always turned me off for some reason. (No go on Gannon either) My top choice ended up being Penn State. I loved the idea of a large and well-known public university. Between the diverse student body, the amazing liberal arts program, going out on Friday nights, spending Saturday afternoons tailgating and just being in Happy Valley, nothing seemed better than being a Nittany Lion.
But with all the day-dreaming, I had to face the reality that my GPA at the time was decent, but maybe not decent enough to attend PSU. Though expected, the pricey tuition was a bit of downside, and my fear of rejection kept interfering with applying there. Did I have the grades? Should I have retaken my SAT's? How much student debt would I be in with all the loans I'll have to get? What if I just end wasting $60 for the application fee? Despite the dream, I convinced myself to not apply.
Fast-forward through 2 years of community college (a real money-saver I might add), and I'm back to where I started: picking a 4 year school but this time as a transfer student. I decided to keep an open mind in choosing colleges this time by including the likes of Pitt, Duquesne, Robert Morris, Cal U, etc. The fear of getting rejected by Penn State was instilled in me even this time around. I had the required GPA, but transferring school credits can be a tricky process. I fell in love with the school even more after visiting my good friend up there a few times during my run at CCAC. Weirdly enough, that made matters more complicated, because I'd feel 10x worse if I was denied acceptance.
Eventually, I chose IUP to attend. I learned that I actually enjoy the comfort of a slightly smaller campus. I'm not overwhelmed like I suspected I would be. Plus, it was one of the few schools within the state that actually offered my major. (who knew Human Resource was such a difficult major to come across) I can say I'm content here, but the thought of PSU will always sit in the back of my mind the same way I sit and watch Netflix for hours, refusing to leave my dorm.
My advice: even if you think your dream college is unattainable, apply anyway. There were times where I considered applying to Penn State after getting accepted into IUP just to see what the response would be. I wouldn't even think twice about dropping money on an application fee. However, getting denied is one thing, but getting accepted when it's "too late" is probably even more upsetting. I'll always be curious, though, I'll never feed into it. I'll always wonder how much different my college experience would've been, or if it'd be different at all. I know you hear it throughout your high school career, but the university you choose to attend will impact your profoundly. If you feel as though you're making the wrong decision in your college you most likely are. You want to apply to a college in the south? Do it. You want to attend somewhere international? Go for it. Considering Julliard? Take the leap of faith. Excuse me being cliché, but you really will never know until you try.