Chances are college decisions are to blame for all of your anxiety right now. After all, it probably feels like your entire life up to this moment has lead you to this decision, and the rest of your life will be determined by it. There's the pressure to pick the right school and have your entire future figured out. Then there's the idea that your entire world is going to crumble to pieces if you don't make the right choice. What's a girl to do?!
Take a breather, for one. Sure, choosing a college is most likely the biggest decision that you've ever had to make so far. But trust us when we say that it isn't the biggest decision of your life. Check out these five reasons why you'll be content wherever you decide to go to college!
1. College decisions impact the immediate future, but not necessarily the long-term future.
It’s easy to think that your college decision will entirely determine the course of the rest of your life. However, Judi Robinovitz, certified educational planner and founder of Score At The Top learning centers and schools, believes that this isn’t necessarily the case. "I would say... that the decision of which college to attend is a milestone decision, and the biggest one a senior would have made so far in her short life," Robinovitz says. "However, it’s a decision that impacts the immediate future, not necessarily the long-term future."
Although it's important to make your college decisions wisely, choosing the right college is just a first step. Sure, your college is going to determine how your next four years are going to pan out, who you'll become friends with, who you'll network with, what skills you'll gain and which internships you'll get. But in the long run, college is just the tip of the iceberg: imagine the many more lifelong friends and acquaintances you'll meet, the career that you'll choose and the job decisions that you'll make in your life.
"Choosing a major is probably a much bigger decision as that will determine [students'] future careers," Robinovitz says. "Choosing an internship or job is also a bigger decision as it has not only financial implications, but has the potential to impact many years of work experience and all the skills the student will gain in her career to impact the non-career aspects of her life, such as her social life, self-esteem, social consciousness, etc."
The college that you attend will influence these experiences, but they won't define them. College just lays down the foundation for many more decisions you'll be making in the future.
2. No matter where you go, you'll be able to gain real-world experience.
There will be plenty of resources at any school that will prepare you for life after college and help you make even bigger decisions, like which career path to take. According to Reyna Gobel, a student loan expert and author of CliffsNotes Graduation Debt: How to Manage Student Loans and Live Your Life, students can reach career goals no matter which colleges they attend.
"The biggest and smartest decision a high school student really makes is to put full effort into career exploration," Gobel says. "Whatever school they choose, they need to be in touch with career services and always think about internships. Getting some real-world experience and cementing career goals isn't just important, it's vital."
At most colleges, career centers offer opportunities for students to participate in mock interviews, network with alumni, meet with potential employers, attend resume-building workshops, learn about potential careers and jobs and engage in other activities that prepare them for their dive into the real world, no matter where their starting points are.
3. There are academic and social opportunities at every college.
Every school has its own unique student body and opportunities. No matter which college you end up at, you'll have the chance to explore so many new choices and find your own niche on campus.
"There isn't a school in the world without opportunities," Gobel says. "I would be a different person if I decided to go to the prestigious school I originally planned on attending. It ended up that at the schools I chose, my ambition and experience stood out. I had professors that mentored me."
Gobel believes that you can better create good experiences for yourself by getting to know your professors and the activities offered at your school. Often, more important than your college decision itself is what you decide to do once you’re at college—the clubs you're in, the major you pursue, the friends you make, the classes you take, the activities you're involved in, etc. The important thing is to try new things and find out what you’re passionate about.
4. You'll learn more about yourself no matter which college you attend.
College is a place for self-discovery and self-understanding. Once you step foot on your college campus, you'll be forced to make choices on your own.
"One of the most important lessons a student can learn is independence," Williams says. "While being in college, you are the keeper of your own fate. You are responsible for your education, studies, laundry and health, so you must change your focus to that of an independent person."
The friends you make will tell you more about the kind of person you are. The classes you take will inform you about what you find intellectually engaging. The major you choose will give you an idea of where you can see yourself in life. The activities you participate in will help you discover what you're passionate about. The challenges you tackle will reveal your potential. Living on your own, making your own decisions, discovering who you are and finding out what you want to do with your life are all part of the college experience, no matter which school you attend.
5. It's not the end of the world if your college decision didn't go as planned.
Things will work out in the end even if you didn't get into your dream college. You've probably heard this a million times, but it's worth repeating.
"A student who falls in love with one college to the exclusion of all the other colleges on her list and doesn’t get in will likely have a very hard time accepting the reality of what has happened and may make herself miserable at whatever college she attends," Robinovitz says. "But if she proceeds with an open mind (and open heart) as she’s going through the college-application 'rite of passage,' she’ll be able to adapt to another wonderful college that just may not have been her first choice."
So if you think things didn't work out for you where college decisions were concerned, don't fret; you were accepted into your college because the admissions officers thought you would thrive on campus. Once you get settled in your college environment, make friends, engage in extracurricular activities and immerse yourself in academics, you'll most likely find that those admissions officers were right and your school is actually a really great fit for you, even if it wasn't your top choice.
Gobel agrees that you should take full advantage of whatever opportunities are available at your school and make the best of it. "I think students sometimes think because they didn't get in or couldn't afford their dream school, their life will be subpar. Wrong," she says. "But it will be if you don't take advantage of what's offered at the school you actually attend."
And even if you end up really regretting your college decision, there’s always the possibility of transferring; nothing is set in stone. Gobel transferred her senior year of college and considers it the best decision she's ever made.
"Don't think once you decide to go to college as a first-year student, you're stuck there forever," Gobel says. "However, don't change schools on a whim. Consider joining different clubs or meeting with an adviser about different majors or coursework. Sometimes it's not the college that's the problem, it's your major or what activities you're pursuing."
As you're mulling over your own college decision, keep in mind that deciding which college to attend is not the most important decision of your life, though it may seem like it is now. More important than the decision itself is what you do at the college you choose to attend. So when you've finally made the best decision that you can make, go celebrate and get excited for life as a collegiette!