Dear High School Seniors,
This isn’t going to be your stereotypical “open letter.” I’m not going to talk about how you’re probably feeling nostalgic towards high school, but don’t worry, because “college is a new, exciting chapter of your life!” You’ve heard all that before. Instead, I want to give you some advice if you’re having trouble deciding which college is right for you, since May 1st is quickly approaching,
Even though I’m a second-semester junior, meaning it’s been almost three years since I was in your shoes, I still remember it like it was yesterday (okay, I’m allowed a few cliches…)
TOP TIPS TO CONSIDER WHEN MAKING YOUR FINAL COLLEGE DECISION:
1. Go where you feel most comfortable.
Forget about legacy, forget about college prestige, forget about where your mom says she really likes. Whatever college you end up choosing is going to be your home for the next four years – and no one else’s.
When you step on campus, ask yourself: Do I feel at home? When you break it down, you should feel comfortable and content on campus, because when you feel at home, you’re happier and you sleep better – which are super important in college! Go somewhere you can see yourself walking its sidewalks, lounging in the dorms, and enjoying the surroundings.
2. It’s okay if you don’t know what you want to study.
One of the most frequent questions I get as a tour guide is, “Is it okay to start freshman year undecided?” The answer is 100% yes. It’s totally normal to not know what you want to do at 18. I’ll let you in on a secret: according to a national survey, 80% of all college students change their major at least once!
If you’re currently undecided, explore the resources that colleges offer to help you decide a career path, like Marist’s FOCUS program, that works with undecided freshman to explore career options before declaring a major.
Marist also makes it incredibly convenient for students to enter undecided or change majors, since you apply to Marist itself, not to a particular school within the college. “Having flexibility was one of the aspects of Marist that secured my decision to come here,” says Maddy Pelagalli, ‘18. “Even though I haven’t changed my major, I felt better knowing I wasn’t trapped in it, and had the option to easily change my mind.”
3. Ignore the sibling factor.
As someone whose older sister also went to Marist, I understand that sometimes younger siblings may want to avoid going to same school as their sibling. However, when considering what college to pick, I encourage you to take siblings out of the equation. I was skeptical of going to the same school as my sister – I wanted a place I could call my own, without feeling like I was continuing in my sibling’s footsteps. You might feel this way too, a lot of younger siblings do. It’s completely normal. Once I realized that Marist would give me a completely different college experience than my sister, I realized it actually was the place for me…it just also happened to be the place for her too.
4. Steer clear of following your best friend.
While you might be tempted to go to the same school as your best friend, I highly urge you to reconsider. These college years are yours, and your decision shouldn’t be swayed by someone else. I’m not saying that you won’t stay friends with people from high school – you can visit your friends on the weekends, and have them come and visit you, but college is all about growing up, and that means not always staying in the comfort zone of following your current friend group.
5. Take another visit.
Even if you’ve been to campus before, you might be surprised how beneficial visiting again could be. Now that you’ve been accepted into these schools, you are in a completely different position and mindset. Check if the schools you’re considering hold an Accepted Students Day (most do) and make an effort to go! You’ll have the opportunity to meet current students and faculty and ask them questions, but most importantly, you’ll get to meet other students who have been accepted.
Tip: during the day, take the time to break away from the main group activities and explore the campus on your own. Sit on the campus green or spend a few moments in the library – see if you can picture yourself in these places on an average day as a student. If you can, it might be a sign this is a college for you.
6. Academics are important – but also consider the college community.
While academics are obviously the most important part of college (that’s why we’re all here), it’s incredibly important that you make sure the college you choose cares about you as a person, rather than just as an academic. Is there a sense of community on campus? Are there a variety of clubs for all different interests? A great college actively tries to foster a sense of unity amongst its students, and to provide an atmosphere on campus that is warm, inviting, and supportive.
7. What real-world opportunities will you be offered?
While college is a ton of fun, as I’ve said before, the primary reason you’re here is to get a job after graduation. When deciding where to go to college, explore the professional opportunities they offer. Do they have a strong internship program? Does the school host career fairs? How is their alumni network? A college’s job is to prepare its students for life in the real-world, to use its connections to help students achieve, so check out the Career Services each of your potential schools offer.
8. Don’t be afraid to reach out to current students or alumni to ask them about their experience.
While it may be more convenient to just ask tour guides about their opinions of the school, realize that the reason they’re doing that job is obviously because they love it! If you want to feel like you’re getting more unbiased opinions, don’t be afraid to ask someone random on campus. When visiting, pick a few students who are on their way to class, or eating in the dining hall, and ask them how they’re liking their college experience so far. It may seem awkward at first, but don’t be shy! They’ll understand why you’re asking, and you might be surprised how helpful you find what they tell you.
9. Don’t rush the process.
It may seem stressful now, but just remember, everything works out in the end!
You’ve done all the hard work: SATs, AP tests, filling out the Common App, and visiting campus after campus. Now it’s time for you to finally reap the benefits! Get ready! Get excited! No matter what school you go to, the next four years are going to be great!