Three years ago, I chose to accept an offer to attend my top university. After clicking the daunting “Accept” button, I became instantly filled with pride — it was all done, and I got what I wanted. Despite the fact that a whopping 0% of my friends would be attending the same school as me for the next four years, I had no doubt in my mind that it was the right decision.
That feeling didn’t last long. As a naturally anxious and worried person — and someone who strives to not only get ahead but be the best at everything I do — I should’ve known I would take others’ opinions of my college decision too seriously. When I arrived at school that day, the infamous green-eyed monster dug his way through my excitement, particularly when I heard all my friends discussing their own university choices. Suddenly, I wasn’t so sure if the decision I’d been planning for months was the right one.
If the situation I just described hits too close to home, don’t worry; many high school seniors have felt the pangs of jealousy after hearing about their friends’ college decisions. With Decision Day coming up, it’s a feeling some students will have to prepare for. Decision Day is already full of anxiety as you prepare for the terrifying concept that is your future, and the constant buzzing of friend group chats and in-person conversations full of announcements and congratulatory wishes can make it worse.
To learn more about Decision Day jealousy, I spoke to David Tzall, a licensed psychologist. As it turns out, if you’re green with envy, you’re not alone in the slightest — and there are many healthy ways to deal with it.
It’s easy — and common — to feel uncertain about your college decision.
Everyone, to some extent, feels some level of skepticism about their choice simply because there’s so much uncertainty that lies ahead. So, it’s easy to look at someone else’s experience and begin to question your own decision — whether they accepted an Ivy League, chose a notorious party school, or accepted a program that was perfect for them, there are always reasons to be jealous of someone else.
“A low-level feeling of resentment or disappointment can be normal when you feel like others are moving ahead and getting more than you,” Tzall tells Her Campus. “This feeling of jealousy can come from a variety of sources, including social comparisons, fear of missing out, and a sense of insecurity or inadequacy.”
Any way you slice it, envying others’ achievements — even when you want to feel happy for the other person — is extremely common. “It is fair to say that most people at some point in their lives have felt this type of jealousy and sense of being left out,” Tzall adds.
Every choice is worth celebrating, and any path can lead you to success and happiness.
I chose a school my friends constantly ridiculed — one known for its extremely tough programs and students with a less-than-active social life. I was constantly told, “You know you’ll never have any fun there, right?” by friends whose opinions I truly cared about. And when all my friends chose popular party schools, I was initially regretful, even jealous that they had four years of enjoyment ahead of them while I was likely to spend college buried in the books.
But guess what? None of these stereotypes ended up being remotely true. My workload is completely manageable, and I have tons of free time for parties and girls’ nights, all whilst feeling invigorated by my program. I come home every day to my best friends (whom I met last-minute on Facebook Marketplace, BTW), and spend my days on campus with peers who truly inspire me. Despite living through the pandemic my first year, I was able to socialize and have fun. I made some amazing new friends and met my boyfriend, all because I took a risk and chose a school that was unpopular among my high school friend group.
You may be like me — anxious your school won’t be fun, or perhaps you’re worried your choice isn’t competitive. Either way, colleges are all large enough that they’re practically guaranteed to have the key factors that matter: great people, interesting programs, and a fun environment.
Dealing with Decision Day jealousy starts with gratitude.
As much as it may feel better to just ignore these feelings of envy, it’s best to acknowledge them and begin shifting your mindset. “At its core, jealousy is an instinctive emotion that serves as a protective mechanism for our own self-interest,” Tzall explains. “It is a natural response to feelings of threat or competition and can be a way of motivating us to work harder and achieve our own goals. However, when jealousy is left unchecked, it can lead to negative emotions and behaviors, such as resentment, bitterness, and even aggression.”
In preventing this feeling of jealousy from growing and leading to further negativity, the first step is to be grateful for the path you’ll be going on — whether that’s accepting a college offer, taking a gap year, or another plan entirely. “It is best to try and practice gratitude and acceptance,” Tzall says. In doing so, we can focus on what we do have instead of what we may be missing out on.
And even though it’s tempting, comparison is never a good idea. “The more we turn the attention to ourselves and compliment our strengths, the more likely we will drop the need for jealousy and insecurity as we will achieve that which we so covet,” Tzall advises. “By acknowledging and addressing our own insecurities and fears, we can learn to appreciate the accomplishments of others without feeling threatened or inadequate.” If reflecting on this mentally isn’t enough, you can even try journaling or talking to a trusted family member or mentor.
In the end, Decision Day is just about recognizing your accomplishments and making exciting decisions for your future. It’s not a reason to be upset or jealous — quite the opposite, actually! So, take the day to be proud of yourself. Because the truth is, in a few years’ time, you won’t be concerned with whether your choice of university was the “right one” — instead, you’ll just be soaking in every day, enjoying college while it lasts.