It seems like yesterday that my little brother was a new coming freshman starting off his high school years. Three years later and it’s time to begin the stressful and cut-throat process of college hunting. Through multiple standardized tests and arduous hours of studying to boost up GPA’s, juniors feel immense pressure to be the best and get accepted into the most rigorous universities. However, each individual is unique and its important to search for a place to fulfill one’s entire college experience, one that goes beyond the classroom. Sometimes students forget to look at the bigger picture, and focus on trivial details such as the reputation of the university or what the party life is like on the weekends. However, It’s the overall four-year experience that one can only grasp by talking to students currently at the college, the people who are living examples of one’s future. Think about it, how can you possibly know if a school is right for you based on its ratings in the news? Here are five things I would tell any high school junior to keep in mind throughout the process, aspects I wish someone had told me three years ago.
Visit Through the Lens of a Student.
There’s something about stepping foot on campus that makes your future seem, well, real. It’s impossible to decide based on an hour long information session that discusses study abroad programs and the sports facilities. Visit everywhere with your family, as it’s the only way to envision your life as a college student on campus. However, go beyond the generic tour each session provides. In order to truly see if you belong, you have to step into the shoes of a current student. Go see a freshman dorm, check out the library where you will sit for hours on end doing homework, peep into the dining hall, and if possible, even sit in on a lecture. If you can picture yourself in three years grabbing an extra-large coffee on the way to that painful Friday morning class, keep the college on the list.
Be Open Minded.
Every college is different, and that’s what makes them special. Although you may think you were born and raised to go to one and only one university, most of the time this is not the case. Don’t cave into pressure from parents or peers, because college is no one's experience but your own. Look at a wide scope of schools, ranging all the way from large research universities to small liberal colleges. Whether it be a beautiful scenic campus, school spirit, or specific academic programs, each college has something unique to offer its students. You may surprise yourself and gravitate towards a school you had never even heard of before college hunting began.
Although you may fall in love with one university while touring on that perfect sunny morning, don’t limit yourself when it comes time to send in the applications. Apply to every single college/university you saw a future at because you never know how the process will play out. Be patient and good luck to all the anxious and nervous high school juniors out there. Although it may not feel like it now, it really does all work out so take a slow and deep breath, explore all options and enjoy yourself in the process!