This week Georgia Tech’s Vice Provost for Enrollment Services, Dr. Paul Kohn, joins us on the blog. Welcome, Dr. Kohn!
If you’re a high school senior, it’s almost time to commit to the college or university you’ll be attending in the fall. As you go through this process, it may seem daunting to have multiple options to choose from… confusing to figure out finances… and confounding that your friends appear to know exactly where they are headed and the reasons why. Meanwhile, you can’t decide whether you want a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or pizza for dinner, much less decide where to go to college.
You probably have some concerns, doubts, and fears. Is this really the best school for me? Am I good enough to succeed there? Will I fit in? Who will I live with and where? Then others, maybe family, add: is it going to pay off? Aren’t you going to miss home? How will you deal with the cold, or the snow? Will you be safe? Are you really going to borrow that much money? You may have friends who are choosing to stay home and either skip going to college or start out at the more affordable and familiar local junior college—and by their example, your concerns just loom larger.
If you weren’t already worried, you might be now! Before you get overwhelmed, here are a few tips to help you get through this process and make the best decision for your future.
STOP! First and foremost, if you haven’t congratulated yourself on reaching this milestone where you stand upon the threshold of attending college, then do it now! Stop and remember all you have accomplished, how fortunate you are to have choices and how blessed you are to be facing such possibilities. Believe it or not, relatively few people graduating high school this year will go to college next. What may seem like problems are really gifts.
REFLECT upon how you reached this point in your life. You worked hard. You asked lots of good questions. You learned to make good choices. Others have likely helped and supported you on this journey. Your skills, your intuition, and your mentors are with you and they will help guide you to make a good choice. You got yourself to this point in time. Trust your instincts, but also be practical.
MAKE A LIST of the pros and cons of the final choices you are considering. Review your list with friends, relatives, and teachers. Listen to the thoughts that come to mind as these guides point out details about you or about the schools. Distinguish between your past actions versus your thoughts of the future. I personally think our past actions and choices provide much more insight into who we truly are than the way we think we should be.
For example, I have a friend who says he loves going to concerts, but his actual behavior reveals he hasn’t been to a live show in years. When he told me he was thinking about moving to Austin to enjoy the thriving live music scene, I challenged him, and he recalled the 101 excuses he routinely has for not going to any shows—and he lives in New York City! What do your actions tell you about yourself, and are they more telling than your beliefs? Now go back and rewrite your list. Narrow things down to two options.
If you can afford the time and expense, go visit the finalists one last time. If you cannot, watch some YouTube videos about life at each school. Read about the accomplishments of current students, recent grads and professors. Get inspired. Transform your quandary into: which of these two great schools would be perfect for me?
Then accept that the answer is neither—there is no perfect place! Come October, you will second guess whichever choice you made because you’ll be one month (or more) into the semester. You may have no idea what grades you are achieving, you’ll face more exams, papers, problem sets and group projects, and life overall will feel stressful.
When you go on social media, it will look like your friends at other schools are having the times of their lives, while you’re mired in stress from making a bad choice. Don’t let social media be your barometer for relative happiness. You’ll get through the assignments. You’ll survive the stress. You’ll learn how to succeed in a new environment, make friends from distinctly different backgrounds, and see how the power of a positive attitude can make an enormous difference in how you experience the stress of decision-making, the stress of uncertainty, the stress of the unfamiliar. If you truly hone these skills, you may begin to see all the stress as part of the adventure. For that is what is truly ahead of you–one of life’s most remarkable adventures, in which you will build memories, skills, relationships and goals you may have never dreamed of.
TRUST that you’re where you are because of your ability to make good choices, and send in your deposit. Stop agonizing over where to go, and start picturing yourself in your new school colors, cheering for the team, pranking your roommates, talking with professors, and deciding if it matters which side of the bread you put the peanut butter on and which side you put the jelly. Either way, it’ll still be a PB&J and if you believe it’s good, it will be.
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