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How I Chose My University

It's getting to the time of year where seniors begin picking which colleges they plan on going to come Fall. I went through this tough (ugh, tough is an understatement) decision almost a year ago on the dot. Choosing where you want to go to school is not something that most people come by easily. Even if you have that dream school that seems to trump all others, things may not always turn out like you wanted them to.

The first thing you want to do when even looking at schools is figuring out if you want to stay at home and commute, stay close to home but dorm, or go away to school. Since this is about how I chose my university, the clear option for me was go away to school. All of the schools that I looked at were over three and a half hours away. I considered schools in the Midwest (Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois), New York (around NYC), Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. From my home, most of them were anywhere between 6-9 hours away (with the exception of the university that I ended up choosing) and that was all depending on traffic.

Out of the 10 universities that I considered, I ended up applying to 6 of them. I made sure to apply to at least one state school (in New York, they're SUNY schools) as a safe choice incase everything went horribly wrong with my application process. I got my applications in around Thanksgiving of 2012 and played the waiting game until my first letter arrived in early January of 2013. The feeling that you get when you receive your first big envelope is indescribable, really. It's one burst of confidence, that's for sure.

I liked something about every school I applied to, but I had that one dream school that I had been drooling over since 8th grade. EIGHTH GRADE. That's a pretty long time to be dreaming about a college. I was really excited to fill out the application and I spent a lot of extra time doing the extra essays for it, making sure they were perfect. This school was everything I thought I wanted and more. I knew from the start that it was a difficult school to get into, but I was praying that my test scores and GPA were up to that school's standards.

Come late February, I had received all of my letters except for my dream school. I was getting worried, but I told myself that nothing was wrong. They probably had a lot of applicants to sort through. Some odd weeks later, I got a letter from them. Not a big, manilla sized envelope. A regular old one with nothing special about it. I didn't even want to open it, but I did. I remember crying a lot and thanking God that I was home alone. I threw the letter that told me I was wait listed in the trash and told myself that there was still a chance that I could get it, even though I knew there wasn't. Sure enough, a few weeks later I had gotten my official rejection letter and cried even more. I was set on this college since the 8th grade and I wasn't admitted. I felt pretty worthless for a while, despite getting accepted to my five other colleges and getting some pretty nice scholarships. None of that really mattered because they weren't for my dream school.

Around the end of March, I came around and pushed my rejection to the back of my mind. I still told everyone I got into all of my schools, a little embarrassed by my rejection despite it being a difficult school to get into in the first place. I liked my five choices for different reasons. One had the nicest dorms and was the most affordable, one was a state school, another was close to NYC (aka my favorite place on Earth), one had a great location in Boston, and the other had the best program for my major. If you're lucky enough to find a school that you love everything about, take it and run with it. Because I was left with five schools that I liked, but didn't think I loved.

To make a decision, I went through a few steps.

  • Pros and Cons list. I know it's totally a Ted Mosby thing, but this was by far the best thing I could have done. I made myself a T-Chart for each school and started dishing out the advantages and disadvantages of each school. Never be afraid of a pro or con being silly. I'm not even going to joke, I had squirrels on one of my pros list. I didn't want to go to a city school where I couldn't see animals other than birds living on campus.
    • Some things you might want to consider for your list: Dorms and their amenities, food on and off campus, parking, whether freshmen can have cars on campus, distance to public transportation, weather, the area of the school (is there anything to do on the weekends within walking distance? Driving distance?), laundry services, fitness center availability, prices for instate and out-of-state tuition, and most importantly, your program.
  • Talk to your parents/family members. My dad stayed local for school and my mom went away to school for her first year of undergrad, came back home for her last three years, then went away again for law school. Your college decision is your choice, but it never hurts to get a second opinion from your parents. My mom knew that I wasn't really interested in the two schools in New York and really helped talk me through the decision between the Boston schools and Cleveland. If it wasn't for my parents, I probably wouldn't have ended up where I did and I think that I would have been miserable any other way.
  • Ignored my friend's plans. This is in no way to be offensive. I love my friends dearly (Hi guys, if you're reading right now), which is why I knew that no matter where I went to school, we would remain friends. I didn't want to let it get in the way of choosing my schools because I was afraid of going too far away. If your friends are true friends, your friendship will withstand any distance. 
    • This can go for boyfriends/girlfriends/significant others. The amount of times I heard people wanting to go to school where their boyfriends were going made me want to stick my hand in hot lava. A romantic relationship should not determine where you go to college and start the first step of the rest of your life. Your education is more important than a relationship. You can argue it all you want, but my opinion will remain the same.
Through this whole decision process, I just want you to remember that it is YOUR decision. Not your parents, not your friends, not your great aunt twice removed. You are going to be the person attending classes for four years (or even more!) at that university, not anyone else. Best of luck and may the odds be ever in your favor!


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