Dear high school senior,
I write to you today to congratulate you. You have been accepted to some kind of college in some part of the world. Well done. You're almost done with senior year, and you're almost done with the fight against senioritis.
In a few short months, you'll be sitting in a folding chair while the valedictorian turns high school into a metaphor. One by one, your classmates will walk across a stage and collect their empty diploma covers. Then it will be your turn. You'll throw your cap in the air, pick the perfect Instagram filter and it'll be over. The world you've known for 18 years will be gone.
What's next? College. It's that time of year again. Your college acceptance letters are out, and you're reviewing your pro-con lists. Naturally, things such as tuition, financial aid, location and specialities will all be part of the deliberations. But as someone whose freshman year is quickly coming to a close, my hindsight is 20/20.
Here are four things I would add for consideration when choosing the right college for you:
1. Pick the place you'll feel the most at home when you're unhappy.
When you're happy and enjoying yourself, home is the last thing on your mind. You're living in the moment, smiling, laughing and living life to the fullest. It's when you're miserable that you crave the warmth, safety and comfort of home. As much fun as college is, there are going to be times when you're miserable.
It's those times when you're really going to be aware of the decision you've made. Make sure that wherever you go, it feels like home. Because no matter how cool the fitness center is, how high-tech the physics labs are or how successful the football team is, none of it will matter when you're feeling down about life. It's the atmosphere, the people and the college as a whole that creates a home.
2. Despite what your parents say, college isn't all about school.
Yes, you're going to college to get an education. However, it is also where you will be eating, sleeping, spending free time and having fun for the next four years. So while the academic buildings may be state-of-the-art, don't forget to consider the extracurricular opportunities, local town and general student body.
Every aspect of your college career is going to shape and mold you into your future self. Ultimately, college is a lifestyle. When you make your decision, you're not only choosing the university name you'll put on your resume, but the experiences, friendships and opportunities that will kick-start the rest of your life.
3. The more variety, the better.
So, you want to be a doctor. Fantastic. But before you put your deposit down for the school with the best biology program, remember you're 18. Things change. That's life.
I went into college as a pre-med student, but switched to sociology and political science less than a month later. So trust me, you want options. You want to be able to change majors and pick up minors.
You want the opportunity to explore different careers. You want the chance to find your passion as you go. While you might still want to be a doctor in three years, it's better to be on the safe side when your future is at stake. And let's be real: You do not want to sit through biochemistry if you don't have a passion for it. Even though transferring is always an option, who wants to go through the college application process twice?
4. Comfort zones are overrated.
It's cliched, but it's cliched for a reason. Remaining in your comfort zone will bring you nothing new. Pick a school that has a little bit of mystery. College is supposed to be a new experience, so don't bring those old high school comforts with you. Go out, meet new people, expand your perspective, challenge your own ideas and experience what it's like to be independent. Find the life you've always dreamed of, not the life you're already living.
College is a big decision. It's now practically necessary to succeed. Where you choose to attend will follow you for the rest of your life. But while you look at the universities' prestige, academics and tuition, don't forget to consider friends, extracurriculars, passions and happiness. As I've said before, college is a lifestyle. The question now is, what kind of life do you want to live?