By May 1st, college bound high school seniors everywhere will decide on a school and submit their deposits. Last year, I made my decision that very day. It was a choice that completely changed my life and that will continue to influence it as the years go on. I was completely torn between Boston College and George Washington. Nobody in my family knew what I would decide; in fact, my grandparents had a bet going on which college I would choose… and for the record, Grandpa won. Looking back, I regret my decision, but at the same time I know it was the right one and am glad I made it. Picking a college is tough; here are some things I wish I knew last year that would be useful for anyone trying to do so.
There is no right decision, but the school you pick will significantly impact your life, the people you meet, the degree you pursue and the job you will eventually get. This being said, do not take this decision lightly.
Make the decision for yourself. It’s hard not to ask your parents what to do, but at the end of the day this is your decision and you have to make it for yourself. Last year, I knew my parents each had their opinions on where they thought I should go. I thought Mom wanted me to go to GW so I’d have more options even though she actually wanted me to choose BC. I thought Dad openly wanted BC, since I’d be close to home and on a campus he’d toured and felt comfortable with even though he actually wanted GW for the dorms. I can’t tell you how many times I asked my mom to tell me where to go and how many times she refused. What she did help with was listening to my thoughts about each school and helping to create a pros and cons list, a tool that, in my opinion, is crucial to making any big decision.
Don’t make it based on finances. Based on the situation, this one may or may not be feasible. In fact, making the decision based off of finances may make the decision 10x easier. However, the best way to choose a school is by picking the one you’ll be happy at. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending how you look at it) GW and BC would’ve cost the same amount for me which made my decision harder and ensured it was my own.
Don’t be a follower. You are the one who is going to be living at this school, you are the one moving away from home, and you are the one who is seeking an education. Make your own choice in your own best interest, not anyone else’s. Just because your best friend is going to a school they’re in love with doesn’t mean you should follow them there and hope to fall in love with it. Don’t follow your friends to college! No matter where you go, you’re going to make new friends and probably won’t even end up talking to the people you followed there. Chances are, you’ll end up wishing you went to your own dream school and end up transferring out.
Don’t let your comfort zone limit you. Coming to DC was totally out of my comfort zone, which is why I chose GW. BC was the epitome of my comfort zone: a closed, Catholic campus close to home. Every time I visited GW, I felt overwhelmed by the size of the city and could never find my way around the campus. Meanwhile, when I visited BC, I knew where everything on the campus was to the point that I was already bored with it. Even though moving 7 hours away from home instead of 1.5 scared the living daylights out of me, I knew I had to do it to grow as a person and become more independent. Once you arrive on campus, you have to adjust and because you’ll be forced to make it work, you will. You’ll adjust, function and grow comfortable with your surroundings (even the insane city driving). You’ll adjust to college just like you adjusted to high school. The best experiences that you can grow and learn from involve taking a chance and stepping out of your comfort zone. Just go for it.
Go with your gut. On paper, both schools were a good option for me and I couldn’t justify picking one over the other. I loved them both, yet I made a choice. After mass on May 1st, my priest asked me where I was going next year and I jut said George Washington. I didn’t even know that I’d made up my mind yet, it just came out. An hour later I was committing to GW.
Remember you’re going to have to live there. This doesn’t mean pick your school based on the dorms, but if you’re claustrophobic, picking a school that has tiny dorm rooms and communal bathrooms (like BC) probably isn’t the best choice. Conversely, if you like to cook and are a picky eater, picking a school with no kitchens (like BC) probably isn’t too wise either.
If you do regret your decision, you can always transfer. All summer and over winter break there was nothing I wanted to do more than transfer to BC, be close to home and get away from GW. However, looking back I’m glad I didn’t. Although part of me is still uncertain whether or not I made the right choice, I know that there is no right choice… there is not right or wrong way to go in life and you have to make the best of what you decide. However, if you are absolutely miserable with the school you chose you can always transfer… just wait until after the first year, not semester, to make sure you’ve fully adjusted and are absolutely certain you want to switch schools.
When it comes down to it, the decision is yours and you’re going to have to live with it… for four years. Think back to who you were freshman year of high school and how different you are now… college is going to be the same way. The school you pick will shape you in one way or another. Your college is going to become your home and your classmates are going to become your family.
Only 2.5 weeks left until decision day… GOOD LUCK!