When I opened my first college acceptance back in December, I breathed a sigh of relief. The harrowing college process was over; I had gotten in Early Decision and would be 100% going to that school, signed, sealed, delivered. I excitedly made my official college announcement on Facebook, chatted with my future classmates on GroupMe, and added the name of my school to my Instagram bio. Now that I knew where I was going, I thought, everything would be a breeze; the immense pressure I’d felt to earn perfect grades and excel in my activities would be replaced by the casual smugness of a college-bound senior who holds no uncertainty about the future.
A few days later, however, I received a call from the college’s admissions office. This year, they had seen overwhelming demand for one of the potential majors I’d selected on my application, and there would be no guarantee that I could take the classes I wanted to in the subject or turn it into a major or a minor. I now had two options; I could either attend the school with a very slim chance of exploring a subject area of interest, or I could apply to other schools (binding Early Decision agreement waived) and still be considered an accepted student should I eventually choose to go there anyway. The call came as a shock; I had thought that by choosing a small liberal arts college, I wouldn’t have to worry about competing to get into certain classes or not being able to sample a variety of subjects. Though I still loved the school, I had a strange gut feeling that maybe this debacle was meant to happen, and that perhaps I was fated for a different college experience than the one I’d imagined.
Soon after that phone call, I spent a good chunk of my family’s winter vacation in Montreal writing supplemental essays and rethinking where I wanted to apply. Did I really want the “tight-knit community” touted on so many small college brochures, or would knowing everyone in my class become tiresome? Would I thrive in a picturesque rural campus, or would a middle-of-nowhere location hurt my chances of finding a killer internship? Most, importantly, what did I want to do after college, and which schools would best help me get there?
After having endured the long waiting process and finally heard back from all the schools to which I decided to apply, I still don’t quite know how to answer these questions. My options are incredibly diverse; some are close to home, while others are at least a two-hour flight, and the number of students ranges from 1,000 to 14,000. I thought I knew perfectly what type of school I wanted, but the barrage of emails and brochures I receive from different colleges makes small and large campuses sound equally appealing, and without actually being a college student, I can’t quite figure out what my priorities are. Though I’ve basically narrowed it down to two schools, the opinions of family members, friends, and even people I barely know, whether obvious or unspoken, make the decision harder than it should be.
Faced with an unexpected but exciting range of choices, I must remember that I am lucky to even be able to attend college, and that it will be a challenging adjustment wherever I go. I’ve also realized that I shouldn’t expect to automatically know where I “belong” -- I’m still a teenager, and my needs and goals are constantly changing. Despite the stress I’m experiencing now, I don’t regret anything about my college process. My small bump in the road led me to apply to the “reach” schools I’d been too scared to strive for, giving me options that I never imagined. Once I tune out the external forces and fully recognize that where I go to college will not determine my entire fate, I know I’ll make the right decision.