By: Devin Riggs, Regular Contributor
When I was in high school, college was not just intimidating…it was unimaginable. In an overwhelming, please-let-me-go-right-now way. I was just so ready to get on with my life, so ready for the next big adventure. I was scared. I was excited. I was worried. I was confused.
How do you get to that point when college isn’t just an idea or a dot on the horizon?
A lot of high schools have a built in program that helps in the college application process starting with planning steps during freshmen year all the way to transitioning into a college. The first step is, knowing what resources and tools are available to you to help you through the application process. If your school doesn’t have any program set up, there are plenty of websites that can help you narrow down your search based on a variety of factors.
The next step, the hardest step I think…is deciding what you want to do. A lot of people go into college not knowing the answer to this, but having a vague idea will help you find schools with the right programs. Pick five general topics you really enjoyed in high school. Start there.
Other factors that you’ll want to consider: geography, weather/climate, finances, sports programs, job opportunities, school size, surrounding cities, extracurricular activities available, facilities, etc.
Make campus visits a priority. In my final list of five schools, I had my eye on an east coast school as my first choice. During a fall break trip to the campus I discovered very quickly that I would most likely be miserable there. It was a gut feeling…something I never would have learned if I didn’t visit. On the flip side, a school that had initially been lower on my list was the only campus I could picture in my mind weeks after my visit. There was a certain pull toward it that I didn’t feel with the other schools. Take the time to explore your possible new home. Make sure it’s a place you feel safe and good living in.
The safe bet is not always the best bet. I know it’s easy to stay where you’re comfortable. In-state schools are closer to home. They cost a lot less. AND college is also a time to spread your wings, to take risks, to discover new opportunities. I went out-of-state very purposely because I knew I needed to learn how to be on my own. I needed to learn how to make friends and take on more responsibility. I knew a lot of students who would go home every weekend, and they’d miss out on some of the cooler aspects of college life. For some, staying closer to home is necessary. Usually it’s bound in the finances. While it can help you transition, it can also limit you. Take a chance on yourself. Don’t sacrifice growth for comfort.
Work one step at a time. The process of getting into college is involved and stressful. I’m all about the checklists and monitoring progress. Manage your time so that you not only meet deadlines, but you submit early. (Make sure you double and triple check every piece of information as well). Take deep breaths. Put one foot in front of the other. It will all come together.
A pile of acceptance letters or not, be proud of what you’ve accomplished. Relish in the new opportunities awaiting you. Waiting for a decision is hard. It’s the agony of not knowing, wondering, and worrying. Rejection is never easy, but it happens. Accepting an offer can be just as hard as though. There are still all those factors to consider. I was terrified that I would make the wrong choice and end up in a place I hated. Four years later…it was the best decision I’ve ever made. Make the decision for you, not for your parents and family, or to satisfy your friends.
And when you step onto campus on that first day, soak it all up. Savor every moment. Celebrate what it took to get there. Work your butt off to make the time you have worthwhile, because four years can flash by in a second. You don’t want to miss anything.
Good luck future college scholars.
Have you been there? What advice do you have for college hopefuls? Are you a college hopeful? What are you most anxious about?
Devin has a degree in education with a focus in English. She is working to publish her first collection of poetry while also learning the art of patience. Her passions include Doctor Who, penguins, hats and scarves, potatoes, dancing, photography, and making people happy. She believes in the healing powers of music, spending time in the great outdoors, and a good night sleep.