At the beginning of my senior year I was very aware of the looming college process. The majority of people at my high school went on to college so “where are you applying?” was a common question. At this point, I had already met with a couple college counselors, been on a trip to the south and east coast to visit schools and taken the SAT. You would think that that would have made me feel prepared, or like I understood what the application process and overall purpose of college was, but that was far from the truth.
My parents both have advanced degrees and I always knew college was a part of my future. As a result, I didn’t view it as anything that I had a choice in or ownership over. My parents, very thoughtfully, chose where I attended elementary, middle and high school so the sudden pressure of me having to make the decision of where to attend school, the biggest decision I’d make to date was overwhelming. I knew I wanted out of California but beyond that knew very little about the operational differences between a large, private research university and a small, liberal arts college.
I had no concept of what I wanted to do with my life so building my college list, in retrospect, was like throwing darts at a board. Someone would mention a school, I’d maybe have heard of it, then I’d go on the web site, think the photos looked nice and add it to my list. At that point, just ‘out-of-state’ was enough for me. I should have considered size, core curriculum, location (beyond ‘not CA’) and done research on my own instead of relying on the people around me.
As you begin to build your college list and think seriously about where you’ll be for the next four years, do not underestimate the value of your gut, but also think about the tangible aspects of a school that appeal to you. Take time to think about the environment where you’re most comfortable and how that may translate to college life. Don’t be afraid to look outside your comfort zone, but there should be a reason for every school on your list. Mostly, be thoughtful and trust yourself since you’re the one who knows yourself best.