Sitting in my dorm room at the University of Richmond and having my first round of college finals complete, all I can think about is every person currently going through college application process. It seems like another lifetime ago that I was anxiously filling out application after application, totally unsure how to handle it.
Looking back on it now, if I had one piece of advice to anyone going through the extremely stressful process or anyone who will go through it in the future, it would be this: the college you attend does not matter.
Is it that simple? No, of course not. But, it’s not nearly as complex as you might think.
I applied to 18 schools across the nation and across the Atlantic ocean. Yes, I am aware of how many applications that was, but I do not regret it. Why not? It made me feel better about the process, and during this time, all you can do is keep calm. I had it in my head that there was one perfect school out there for everyone and if I didn’t apply to ________ University or ________ College, I could potentially be missing out on the perfect place for me. I tried not to get settled on a particular school, but it happened anyway and I was set on Washington University in St. Louis. When I didn’t get in, it felt like my entire world was falling apart. But, that is not why I am writing about my experience.
The greatest lesson I learned from the college process is that wherever you go, you have the ability to make the most of it. Sure, some schools are more “prestigious”, some have more resources, and there are a million things to consider when choosing a school. I’m not saying you should throw all of your acceptances into a hat and pick one. Yet, you really won’t know what you want until you experience it.
People always say, “I don’t get how colleges expect 18-year-olds to be able to choose a career path.” I feel the exact same way about the college process: you can’t know what you want until you dive into it. The college process seems so trivial looking back now because it didn’t matter which one I chose. I agonized over rejections and making my final choice; yet, every college gives you the resources to succeed. You can guess how you will react to being in certain situations (big schools, small schools, rural schools, city schools, etc.), but that’s about all you can do.
This isn’t meant to eradicate all hope of finding your “dream” school; if anything I’m trying to restore it. Any school can be your dream school. If you’re ecstatic about the college you have chosen to attend, be ecstatic. If you were forced to choose a safety, don’t let your situation diminish the potential of the school. People can end up at schools they never thought they would and love it. The same goes for the opposite. It’s totally possible to go to a school you thought would be perfect for you and end up hating it.
Here is an article I wrote about having a really hard time adjusting to college despite it being at a school I saw as "perfect for me".