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Added April 23, 2014

Advice For College: Picking A School

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You're almost there. The hundreds of hours you spent studying for that most stressful of Saturday morning multiple-choice tests are behind you. You've crafted and edited and rewrote the essay which will describe the essence of who you are and sell you to a bunch of strangers who hold your future in their hands. Three plus years of homework, surprise quizzes, and insufficient sleep have led you to this moment. You're approaching the Promised Land, life after high school. So why are you still so stressed out?


Only because after years of asking for more independence and autonomy, your parents finally are listening. Somehow they're expecting you to know where you want to go to college, and why. It's a case of that old adage coming true: Be careful what you wish for, you might get it! We hope this advice for college will help focus your anxiety and separate what's real and what's not.


Why am I even doing this, applying to college? 

Your angst is real, but so are the rewards of going to college. Ahead of you are thousands of diverse, intelligent people from all over the world. You will be able to choose from hundreds of courses, some of which are bound to be exciting and maybe even life changing. With your newfound freedom, you will be able to go where you want, when you want, with whatever friends you want. And the places to go and the people to go with are often extremely cool.


What can I expect to learn? 

Higher education can be a profoundly valuable experience. College provides unparalleled opportunities for gaining exposure to new and exciting fields of knowledge. They also provide stimulation and support for questioning basic assumptions, forming your own thought patterns and ethical standards, and for establishing lifelong friendships.


How will I know the right college for me?

Our advice for college: Relax. The process of finding the right school increasingly resembles the concept of falling in love. There is one out there that is perfect for you. When you encounter it, you will automatically, through some mysterious instinct, recognize THIS IS IT. And then you will live happily ever after. This is as shaky a notion for higher education as it is for romance. While it is true colleges, like people, have distinctive personalities, it is also true that out of a bewildering array of options, more than one can be rewarding. There is more than one white knight and there is more than one college to make you happy.


Isn't my future financial success based on getting into the best school? 

Studies have found that students who choose a school with lower admission standards over a more competitive school earned incomes just as high as those who attended a more elite school. It's the person, not the place that matters. In fact, they're saying that the best school that turned you down is a better predictor of your future income than the school you actually attend. Students who apply to schools for the ambitious are ambitious enough to do well just about anywhere.


Why am I so anxious?

You have every reason to be anxious. Choose your favorite.


  • The stakes are so high, and the competition is so intense.
  • I will feel like a shameful failure if I have to go to a school no one has heard of.
  • My family will be crushed if my choice disappoints them.
  • The college tours left me more confused than ever.
  • I don't really think there is a school that will meet my needs, body and soul.
  • I haven't a clue what I want intellectually, culturally, politically and aesthetically, only socially.
  • I know I'm supposed to consider size, location, finances, and the quality of the educational program, but it's all too overwhelming.


What if I make the wrong choice?

Some advice for college admissions: all this stress will eventually lead to you and a school committing to each other. Whether or not it's your first choice, college is a place for pushing the limits of intellect, and for understanding a little more about what it means to be human. Enjoy the journey!


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