Raise your hand if someone has tried to influence your college decision.
You can put your hand down now, but give anyone else you see with their hand up a knowing nod. Because it’s literally everyone who has this problem.
You can’t help it, you don’t live in a bubble. When you’re surrounded by people who have their own experiences and opinions, there’s bound to be noise.
The trick is to separate the advice from the bias. You need to find your own voice amongst the noise.
Here’s a few common types of noise, and how to filter them out.
Your Guidance Counselor
Your guidance counselor is trained to help you make decisions, but chances are that they’re saturated with students trying to make the exact same decision as you. They’ll likely not have the time to give you individualized advice, and will go with the biggest blanket statement that they can make.
They’re going for the one size fits all answer. Chances are, it will be the biggest state school you were accepted to, which makes sense. Lots of students from your high school have gone there before, many will go in the future. Many students go on to have good experiences at your state school. It’s affordable, it’s not too far from home, and the adjustment period isn’t terrible because you’ll know plenty of people there.
The problem is that it’s possible that your state school is just not the right fit for you.
When asking your guidance counselor for advice remember that one size doesn’t fit all. If you think the small liberal arts school or the school halfway across the country is a better fit, give it a good hard look. Ask specific questions, and bring up the schools you’re interested in–don’t just rely on them for a list.
There are four main types of parental noise, and you’ll deal with some combination of these factors:
- The School Closest To Home
- The Cheapest School
- The Most Famous School
- The School They Went To/The School They Love
Your parents are trying to do what’s best. They want to see you, and they don’t want you to be stranded at school for Thanksgiving and the like, so they’ll want you close to home. They’ve been dealing with finances for longer than you’ve been alive, so they’ll keep a close eye on the price tag. They want you to get the “best” education possible, and their picture doesn’t include which school is the best fit. And of course, parents love the idea of sharing the connection of college with their kids or seeing you go to the school they love.
When you’re dealing with parents it can be hard to have your opinions heard while staying respectful. If they’re holding the purse strings, it can feel impossible to go up against them. But it is possible, and it can be done.
I know because I’ve been there.
What you need to do is come at them with facts and numbers. You can add a little bit about your feelings and going with your gut, but what convinces them will not be the happy warm fuzzies–it will be statistics.
So do your research. Prove that your school has more students who do undergraduate research, which will help you get into pharmacy school. Dazzle them with job placement rates way above their favored school. Use that cost estimate calculator to show that yes the sticker price is much higher, but they’ll give you a financial aid package that will even the score. Do a door-to-door estimate for travel time. Is five hour by car all that different from five hours by train? Does your aunt live only an hour away just in case something happens? This information is out there, and it is ready for your disposal.
This one is difficult, because your friends are just like you. You have a lot in common, but that doesn’t mean you’ll have the same opinions on college.
Your friends might badmouth a school you really like. They might be committed to your top choice’s rival. They might urge you to go where they’re going. They might get caught up in the prestige hype and urge you to go to the “best” school, even though you don’t love it.
You might even be scared to go to a new school where you don’t know anyone. Or that you and your best friend might grow apart if you go to school across the country.
When you’re dealing with your friends try to establish a no negativity zone. It’s hard, and you’ll have to call each other on it all the time–but it will seriously help you clear the air. Remember that you and your friends are different people, and you might like slightly different things. You can be sports rivals and still be best friends.
If you have friends who are important to you then you’ll just have to make an effort to stay in touch. It can be tricky, but it also can be nice to have someone outside the situation to vent to. And even if you’re bad at staying in touch, you’ll be able to catch up when you’re home. One of my best friends from high school and I only see each other a few times a year, but when we do spend time together, it’s like no time has passed at all. That’s real friendship. The important ones will stick around.
Decision making is hard enough on your own, so do your best to filter out everyone else’s opinions. Because in the end, you’re the one going to college.