I know I’m currently in the middle of completing blog posts about my most recent group of campus tours (and promise to return to that topic later this week!), but having just returned from attending my 10-year reunion for my college graduating class (Albion College, class of 2003 – Go Brits!), I wanted to take a moment to reflect on my own undergraduate experience. The topic is particularly valid right now as I work with my students to help them find the right place for their next four years – always in the hopes that they will have the same wonderful experiences I did.
I ended up at Albion much the same way that many of my students will find themselves at their eventual college or university: I read the brochures (web sites were in their infancy when it came to college searches in 1998), visited campus several times, applied, received an academic scholarship and a financial package, and ultimately went with a simple gut feeling that told me that was where I wanted to be.
Now I watch my students do that very same research (with a few more pieces of technology to help them along the way – though nothing will ever replace the in-person campus visit!) and agonize over what their final decision will be and where they think they belong. Should they be at a large school or a small one? Should they take a liberal arts approach to their education or go into a specialized program? Is riding something to continue with or something to take a break from during college?
Let me tell you something, students – when you attend your 10-year reunion on that seemingly distant day in the future, none of those worries are going to seem like they were worth the time and trouble that you spent on them.
Want to know why?
Sitting in that room next to one of the three roommates I lived with during our entire four-year stint, we never once mentioned the papers we slaved over for weeks and during late nights. Not a single classmate talked about the rigor of the academic programs (although we do all feel as though we were much smarter back then!) or lamented the fact that they had chosen a double-major over a singular focus. And what’s more, when we played a quick game to catch everyone up on our lives since college, when asked how many of us still play the collegiate sports that we participated in during our four years, not a single person rose.
Instead, it was fantastic to see more than half of the group rise when asked who had stood up in the weddings of their Albion friends. (Several of the married couples had also met and begun dating while there!) Nearly all of the group rose when we were asked who kept in touch with their roommates after 10 years. (My roommate – now an anesthesiologist – and I even fist-bumped.) And the group was split evenly in half when we were asked who was working in a field directly related to their college major – and who was working in an entirely different area. (That’s not only a tribute to liberal arts education, but it’s also demonstrative of the unpredictability of life in the working world.)
So students, continue to investigate the schools you’re interested in. Keep applying for those scholarships and for financial aid. Contact those coaches and professors with whom you want to work. And then when the time for your final decision arrives, feel free to go with your gut when it tells you which college felt like home to you when you walked across its campus.
Ten years after you graduate, you’ll be glad you did. I know I am.
(Need help starting the research for your perfect college fit? Contact me.)