Tis the season of college applications. It is the season where you will experience a crash course on being an adult. Suddenly you are expected to make your own decisions, and massive ones at that, that you strongly believe determine the route of the entire remainder of your life. All of your friends are experiencing the same feeling of extreme pressure and it seems as though everyone around you is stressed out. You have this vague idea of how your life will unravel, an idea regarding your destiny that you must adhere to. Simultaneously, you feel more lost than you have ever been. Trust me, I was in your same position less than a year ago. You think that this time next year you will be a freshman in college who goes to bed earlier and wakes up earlier and has friends and goes to wild parties and maintains a high GPA and a job and you therefore will be an expert in life. You’re concerned with how much you’ll stick to “yourself.” You’re worried you are going to change too much, or maybe not enough. You are looking for a school that will align with your values, filled with people that are most like you.
But the truth is, this time next year, none of those things will matter because all of the change will prompt you to become a version of yourself that you never could have anticipated.
So how can you possibly plan for this new, unfamiliar version of yourself? To some extent, you must leave some decisions to fate. You’ll be surprised by how many decisions will actually already be made for you down the line.
When you are forming your list of colleges, it is important to figure out what kind of atmosphere you can see yourself happiest in. Don’t get caught up in the specifics. For me, I decided that because I am the kind of person that gets bored and tired easily, I would function best in the high energy environment that a fast-paced city would offer. I took the first step by limiting my college search to metropolitan areas with large schools.
Next, even if you feel as though you know exactly what you want to study and what you want to do with that knowledge, I would strongly encourage you to go into college with an undeclared major in the school of thought you are most interested in. Leave your options open as long as possible. You never know what might suddenly spark your interest, and I swear to you that this will happen. All it takes is a great professor and an intriguing topic to make you completely question your life decisions. Let it happen because this is just the absolute greatest thing.
Lastly, don’t choose a school based on it’s bells and whistles. It is crucial that you not let your mind get wrapped up in the little things like free Ubers, fancy dining halls, or residence halls that resemble hotels. In the end, none of that matters. What does matter is what opportunities the school could offer you and those superfluous things are probably just one of the school’s infinite ways to rope you in and take your money.
Ultimately, at this moment you are a lot more capable than you think you are. Stick with the values that you have at this exact second, not ones that you think you will or should adopt in college because there is so much change in store for you that those ideas will quickly float away.
The farther down the road you get, the easier it will be to see around the corner, so just take little steps one at a time and remember that you will be fine.