Admissions decisions are in the mail, university tours are commencing and you’re basically being hit from every angle with advice about the college you should choose. It’s a whirlpool of recommendations and outside opinions, and you may feel yourself slowly drowning under the weight and finality of this huge choice you’re about to make.
However, the most important factor to keep in mind when choosing a university is yourself. To thrive at your potential university, you must make a decision that best meets the needs of your heart and lifestyle. That being said, here is a list of the people who shouldn’t have a say in your college decision:
1. Your significant other
We aren’t going to lie––this is hard one. Maybe you and your SO have been accepted to all of the same schools, or none of the same schools. It feels great to be in love, and as the time to make a final college decision quickly approaches, your SO is surely a matter weighing heavily on your heart. If your partner is staying in your hometown, there may be temptation to also stay home and attend a community college with the plan to transfer to a university later on.
Many couples experience conflict as the time to make an admissions decision comes around. Oftentimes, it means that they have to enter into a long distance relationship or break up altogether. However, now is the most crucial time to make yourself a priority. The college experience should be everything you dream it to be, whether your SO is there or not.
“I’ve maintained a happy long distance relationship for over two years! There are definitely times when it’s hard to be at separate schools, but my boyfriend and I think the distance ultimately makes us stronger, both as partners and as people,” says Christina Penn, a sophomore at the University of Michigan.
Loving and understanding partners will support your choice, even if it is different than theirs. A long distance relationship is nothing to worry about! It allows the opportunity for individual growth, while still fostering a connection to home and the person you love most.
2. Your friends
Talking about prospective universities with your besties can be a blast. It’s fun to fantasize about weekend road trips, sorority life and all the amazing times you will certainly be sharing together. But, most of the time, we don’t get to take our best friends to college with us, no matter how much we wish we could.
Despite any anxiety you may experience over separation, know that college will bring bunches of incredible new friends into your life––and that doesn’t mean that you need to lose touch with your high school friends either! All the weekend road trips will still be there, and having a long distance best friend just stands as a testament to how much you truly love each other.
Another important thing to avoid is peer pressure from your friends in choosing a certain college or university. Despite academic stigmas, it’s important to attend a college that best meets your needs, regardless of the reputation it may hold.
3. People on the internet
You may find that the people around you are caught up in the same academic stigmas that so many others fall victim to. Chat rooms and online sites like College Confidential exist in order to make the college decision process easier––not to pressure you into choosing a university with the highest esteem.
“When I was poking around in online forums to answer my college related questions, I was almost made to feel insecure about my prospective college choices,” says Adrienne Newton, a biology student at Biola University. “I don’t think that was anybody’s intention, but certain colleges come with reputations that give them more attention. That’s when you have to ignore what everybody else is saying, and laugh it off, because we can’t all go to ivy leagues!”
Yes, Harvard is amazing, and Elle Woods goes there in Legally Blonde. Of course we all want to be Elle Woods! But for many people, a state school or small private university is a better fit than the big name schools you may be directed to. Follow your heart on this one.
4. People at your prospective college
While this may not be applicable to everyone’s situation, many students are led to make a final college decision based on advice from people at their potential college of choice. This could range from a personal friend, department head, current student or even the campus’s tour guide! “Many prospective students come into my office during their first quarter and inform me that a prominent reason they chose Cal Poly was in part because of the outstanding tour they had received on our campus,” says Penny Bennet, Cal Poly’s College of Liberal Arts associate dean and academic advisor. “While I’m reassured that Cal Poly hosts an excellent prospective student tours, I’m always amazed that people would let something as simple as a tour affect such a life changing decision.”
A visit to campus is a fantastic way to gauge your potential college’s social environment, as well as provide an opportunity to see if you enjoy the campus and the surrounding city, but any advice from the people you meet there should not determine your final decision. It is important to keep in mind that faculty and students work to be as enticing as possible, promoting the school and showing off its shiniest parts. Basing your final decision on the exciting information everyone told you may lead to you being unsatisfied with your university choice later.
5. Your mentor
If you’re involved in high school athletics, you have probably looked into your prospective college’s sports programs. The same goes for you visual artists and academic geniuses who hope that your future college can cater to your extracurricular passions. Academic advisors, coaches and mentors are sure to have connections to various college departments, and if you demonstrate the skills to take your passion even further, you can bet that your mentor may have a recommendation for you!
“Any coach or team leader wants their players to continue in their athletic practice, especially if they’ve already shown signs of lifetime potential,” says Scott Corso, the athletic director at Temecula Valley High School in Southern California. “We have a passion for our team, and because of that we are going to do what we can to get them to a college that can help them develop further with whatever sport they’ve been playing, and maybe even make a career out of it.”
While it is important to consider your mentor’s advice, especially if you plan to actively pursue an athletic or arts related scholarship, there should be absolutely no pressure to let your mentor make the decision for you. Other factors like major offerings, location, student body and finances are going to be extremely significant during your college career. If you are a biology major and you pick a school that has a killer dance team, but totally lacks in the science department, you’ll probably find yourself having a hard time.
6. Extended family
No, this does not mean your parents––they should definitely be a huge part of your college decision, because they consistently want the best for you and will also help you financially.
Extended family means those cousins and grandparents you only see during the holidays. The ones who systematically check in about your life progress and hound you with questions about the impending doom of your undecided future. It’s always a plus to have your family’s opinions about your university choice coincide with yours, but if you don’t have the same opinion, or are leaning towards a college where your uncle thinks the football team sucks, it’s okay.
Family is family, and depending on how deeply involved they are in your life, they will love you despite your final decision, because they want to see you in a place where you are happiest. Family should not be a source of pressure, but a source of hugs and encouragement.
Never fear, collegiettes! No matter what university you choose, be excited for the lovely times ahead of you. There are so many adventures, new friends and life changing experiences in store––wherever you are, there will always be enrichment and support from those around you.
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