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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UH chapter.

How to choose a college: 

Step 1: Google some of the big ones like Harvard and Yale

Step 2: Look at your local schools and trash talk those to your friend 

Step 3: Apply to your top choices and take the ACT/SAT 

Step 4: Get back your ACT/SAT results and sulk in bed because you thought you were so smart you didn’t HAVE to study 

Step 5: Get back your FAFSA and be either sad or happy about the money you’ve received 

Step 6: Apply to all the local schools after realizing the sad truth about college applications and financial aid 

Step 7: Struggle or breeze through college 

Step 8: Graduate with a degree and then have no idea what to do 


Obviously, this isn’t the actual way to apply and choose a college, but this is what the process may feel like for some. Choosing a college is hard and getting through your first year once admitted is even harder. Applying and picking YOUR college starts around early middle school, like sixth or seventh grade. You’ve hopefully got one in mind as teachers start wearing college shirts and your classmates start sporting their college of choice’s fan gear. It has to start in middle school because once you hit high school, it’s all about strategizing what classes you’ll take and when to start studying for APs and the SAT/ACT so you can get that National Merit title. You probably think I’m exaggerating, but if you’re reading this and you’re already attending college, then you’ll understand exactly what I’m talking about. College starts off being all about what you’ve done to prep for the first year, reaching as far back as your first summer in high school. 

If you’re anything like me, then you didn’t pass all your AP exams, you didn’t do those big internships and opportunities, you got an average score on your standardized tests, and got mediocre grades in high school because you didn’t actually believe you needed to study. And the cherry on top is that you gain experience applying for college and FAFSA, but once you’ve done what you think is a good job, you get back the results and have been rejected from a few colleges you thought would be easy and your middle-class family has too much money to warrant financial aid. So you choose a couple of colleges to tour. When you finally make your decision, it isn’t that big ol’ Ivy League you used to dream of, but a decent college that you believe will provide you with a good education. 

Yet the heaviness of the application process doesn’t even come close to what happens once you’ve chosen a college. You’ll spend the first couple of weeks figuring out the campus, the buildings, the organizations, maybe even a new friend group. Then you’ll try really hard to stick to your studies or go have new, fun experiences with people you believe will be your lifelong friends. After the initial rush, you’ll hit your first round of midterms and you might get stressed and swamped. In the midst of chaos, you might also get homesick or just tired of school. But after this first big wave, it’ll get a little better and you’ll work out a groove. Perhaps you’ll finally get the chance to reflect on your recent choices.

There’s a sea of unknown possibilities with all the fresh decisions you’re making and you might hate or love them all, but they’re what you’re stuck with. Just know that at UH, you’ve always got a community and you’ve always got a family to rely on when the going gets tough. I’m from a smaller city down in South Texas and UH is a bit far from home, so I was super worried about attending a school where I knew no one. However, I am a part of the Honors College and they instantly grouped me with a mentor group that quickly built some friendships. I put myself out there and joined a few organizations of interest and that really made all the difference because these people had the same interests as me and really wanted to be there for me. 

Push through your fears and make the world your own. Living independently may be a lot and you may be scared off, but it’s important to note that the world isn’t trying to make your life harder. The public education system, maybe, but it’s all up to you and as long as you are willing to ask for help and put yourself out there when the opportunity calls, then you’ll be just fine. Application processes for college are scary because everyone has their own experience and goes through their own troubles, but it’s all about playing for a bigger endgame. The small actions you take can lead to an outcome you might never have expected. College isn’t for everyone. If you decide to go then you’re one of the lucky ones –hopefully, you’ll be better off for it.


Ariel Durham is a current undergraduate student at the University of Houston. In her free time, she likes to read books, listen to podcasts, and thrift clothes, all while eating really good food. Her favorite food is soup or dumplings or both! She also believes that the right combination of shoes and socks can make an entire outfit.