At last, spring is in the air!
The birds have begun to chirp a little louder in the mornings, my horse has (finally) begun to shed out his clip (I hate when they’re two different colors!), and the days are getting longer.
If you’re a high school senior, however, you may find that your excitement about spring is tempered by an impending sense of both excitement and doom that you can’t quite describe. And it’s no wonder – if you haven’t already made your college decision, either through locking in your school with an early decision admission back in the fall or simply by reaching your final selection as time has passed, a very big choice looms over you right now.
(Parents, feel free to chime in if you’re feeling the same sense of excited doom every time you look at the financial aid package in your hands.)
Want the good news? What you’re feeling is entirely and completely normal. The bad news is that I can’t help you sort it out. In fact, my advice to you is the exact opposite of help (or at least you might perceive it that way).
What is this terrible, awful, and useless advice I plan to impart to you regarding your college decision?
Let it go.
No, I’m not saying you should get all Frozen about it…
…unless, of course, you think singing will help. Then by all means, have at it.
I’m also not suggesting that you should skip the decision entirely and forget your college dreams. No. What I mean by “let it go” is that you need to make a decision but you don’t need to be owned by the decision. In fact, as long as you select a school that meets the following criteria:
- offers academic programs that interest you
- is affordable for you and your family
- felt comfortable to you on your campus visit(s)
…you really can’t make a wrong decision.
That’s important, so let me repeat it: If you adhere to the three bullet points above, you cannot make a WRONG college decision.
Let’s illustrate my point: Say that you have narrowed your school choices down to two. You’ve visited the schools, met people there, and really like them both. Both have offered comparable financial aid packages. Both provide outlets for your academic interests, opportunities for you to meet people with whom you have things in common, and you’ll be able to continue riding.
It is a tough decision when two schools are so evenly matched, to be sure. But guess what? You may officially take the pressure off yourself at this point because you’ve already succeeded. That’s right. The hard work is done at this point because you’ve been admitted to two wonderful schools that offer you everything you need to kick off your college career. You’ve put yourself in a position to have two fantastic options and the chances are very (very!) good that you will succeed wherever you go. The final decision is just a detail that requires you to ask your gut which one felt the most right of the two and send your deposit check.
“But Randi, it’s not that easy! What if I end up at the wrong place? What if I can’t make any friends?”
Yes, if you’re honest, students, you’ll admit that you’re not worried about the academic side of the piece as much as you are about making friends. You’re worried that you’ll end up on a campus where you won’t find a group to hang out with or people that you like. More accurately you’re afraid people who won’t like you. You’re worried that you’ll wind up sitting at the “wrong” table in the campus dining hall all by yourself and that all of the “cool” kids will shun you.
My advice to you remains: Let. It. Go.
Making friends in college isn’t like making friends in elementary school (unless you happen to have crayons, and then it’s exactly the same). But in college, there is no such thing as a wrong lunch table or a group of cool kids. There are simply groups of people you spend time with and groups of people that you may never get to know well because they have different interests or schedules than you. That’s it.
“Okay, assuming that’s true, Randi – how do I find my group?”
That’s easy too. (I said it’s easy – I didn’t say it wasn’t daunting.)
The first rule of making friends in college is this: Your first friends will be the ones whose dorm rooms are the closest in proximity to your own or whom you sit by in your early classes. (No, that’s not a joke.) In many cases, these nearby people will not only become your first friends, but also your best friends. (To be fair, yes, nightmare roommates do exist, but they’re normally the exception to the rule and not the rule itself. Be honest on those housing forms and the odds are in your favor.)
Now granted, my evidence isn’t necessarily scientific, but between my own experiences (see photos) and the experiences I’ve heard from hundreds of others who share similar stories, I feel pretty confident in my conclusion that at the college level – and at residential colleges in particular – proximity works.
Proximity works in the classroom because that’s where you’ll meet people with shared interests (and will also undoubtedly be forced into group projects with them on multiple occasions). You’ll also undoubtedly strike up a random conversation with someone in line at the dining hall, at the campus coffee shop, or while you’re looking for a book or periodical in the library and suddenly find yourself invited to an event that sounds really fun or to listen to a speaker you didn’t even know was coming to campus. You’ll meet people in strange and unusual ways that will later look like kismet but in the moment will merely be a wonderful collision of space and time.
(Case in point: My roommate for the last three years of my undergraduate experience was a girl I met on the first morning in the residence hall; she came over to ask my next door neighbors what their plan was for lunch and a group of us decided to go together. Today, she’s still my go-to travel planner.)
And if my own anecdotal research isn’t enough for you, here’s an article from Huffington Post College from last fall that further supports the idea that the where of college is far outweighed by the what that you bring to the table.
So let go of the worry, students. Any decision you make will be the right one as long as it’s the right one for you.