"The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves, that we are underlings."
—Cassius, Julius Caesar, I, ii; 140-141
While complexities and uncertainty dominate the college process, shifting your outlook can help it go more smoothly. Here are six worries that can be turned around to create a more positive college process experience:
Too Many Choices! With over 3,000 colleges and universities in the US, you can be paralyzed by choice. But in reality, you’re a kid in a candy store with everything there to sample. Enjoy the opportunity to find out about different institutions, locations, and people. As you do, you’ll discover things you didn’t even know you were interested in. With search engines allowing comparisons, looking for colleges that have what you want is almost as easy as finding cheap airfare on Expedia.
It’s A Zero Sum Game! No it isn’t. You might not get into Ivyana College if someone else does (not how it works, anyway), but you won’t be condemned to digging ditches; you’ll still be able to attend Beneluxurious University. According to NACAC, the average acceptance rate for colleges in the US is approximately 66 percent, so unless you insist on only trying to be a member of clubs that won’t have you, you’re probably going to be all right.
There’s Only One True College Love! What we hope for in our personal lives isn’t true in college admission. Thinking there’s only one “perfect” school for you just sets you up for a broken heart, because there are many who fit the bill. It’s OK to date several colleges at once, and you are encouraged to tell them all how much you love them before making a final decision. You’ll forget the others once you arrive on campus.
I Don’t Want to Ruin My Life! There are many ways to do that, but choosing a college isn’t one of them. It’s a big choice that’s neither permanent nor fatal. Your life will go on whether you attend Ivyana or not. It will be “different,” but how “different” depends on you. If you don’t like where you end up, transfer. Saying mournfully, “I would have been a different person if only I’d gone to Belcher College,” is not really meaningful.
It’s Too Overwhelming! One word: Plan. The apocalypse only comes to those who wait until the Four Horsemen arrive. Take things a little at a time and suddenly you’re waving an acceptance letter around. And it’s not all work and no play. In fact, this is a wonderful time to express and evaluate ideas about how you want to direct your life. You start down the road to maturity by taking control of how you do it.
Be the One That You Want. Don’t plead for acceptance; offer the talents, abilities, energies, and goals that make you who you are. Say, “Here’s what I have; take it or leave it, because there are other hot prospects waiting around the corner.” Not only do you take charge more during the process, you can also bounce back more quickly once decisions are out because you know you’ll be fine no matter where you go.
It’s a remarkable time to be you. Consider it practice for taking charge of your own life instead of letting the stars do it.
Will Dix, Chicago Scholars Foundation, IL