When I tell people that I’m going to a state school, there are several different reactions I get. Many of them are positive, but other people have negative comments that they try to disguise with false curiosity or friendliness. I’ve heard that “everyone gets into the honors program” (not true). I’ve heard “I always expected you to go to a place like [insert name of prestigious school here]…” (well, I’m not but my school is great, thank you). I’ve heard “well…I work with some people from there who seem to be pretty good workers.” With that one, I had to muster up all of my self control not to reply with a sassy remark (“Really?! You mean their graduates work and are adequate employees?! I was just planning on going there to party!”)
Actually, no. I did not choose my state school because I want to party. I did not choose my state school because I didn’t have other options. I had many reasons for choosing a state school, and the decision wasn’t simple or quick.
Regardless of what school you’re going to and what reputation it has, I’m sure you’ve received negative responses after telling people about the college you’re going to.
- Isn’t that college kind of small?
- Are you sure you’ll get the full college experience?
- That’s an, um, interesting choice…
Or maybe you’ve gotten that look that says well, that’s a little pretentious.
I don’t really know why people say these things when we’ve just finished making one of the most stressful decisions we’ve ever made. We’re already doubting ourselves, and we don’t need other people questioning us.
Sometimes, when people question me, I start to doubt myself again. I start to think “what if I had applied there?” or “what if I had spent more time on that school’s scholarship application?” But regardless of where you applied and how much time you spent on your applications, you chose to go to college and you chose to go to a college that works for you in some way or another; you shouldn’t be ashamed of that.
Other people’s comments shouldn’t override how you felt when you first visited campus or when you got your acceptance letter in the mail. Your dream school doesn’t become invalid simply because it’s not someone else’s dream school. Your college decision isn’t wrong simply because it’s not the same decision that someone else made.
For months, I avoided telling people where I had decided to go to school. When people asked me, I said I didn’t know yet. It wasn’t true; I had accepted my spot in the program in March and I was so sure of my decision. I believed that it was perfect for me, and yet still, I was afraid that other people wouldn’t be able to see that. I was afraid to hear I always expected you to go to a place like [insert name of prestigious school here]…
And though I loved my school and I thought a lot about my decision, I couldn’t help but think that maybe I should’ve selected a more prestigious school. I wondered if I’d still get the same opportunities. If I’d regret not having a big city at my fingertips. If I would fit in there.
I let people’s expectations take precedence over what I knew was true:
that I loved my future college. That the program offered me exactly what I wanted. That stepping onto campus felt right to me. That I fit in there, so effortlessly in a way that I had never fit in anywhere else.
A couple of weeks before May 1st, I was finally able to start telling people where I was going to college. When people asked, I said it confidently and I told them all about the program before they could question me about it. Once I started listing off the reasons out loud, I was able to remember them and truly believe them. I became less afraid of what people would think because I realized that it wouldn’t matter.
It wouldn’t matter when I was in college, doing the things I had always dreamed of doing and taking the kinds of classes that inspire me. It wouldn’t matter when I was walking across the campus that felt like home. It just wouldn’t matter. And then, something else became clear: it never did matter.
My college decision was my decision and I shouldn’t feel obligated to explain myself to people. I shouldn’t feel the need to list off the excuses.
After you make your college decision, everyone seems to think it’s his or her business. Everyone seems to have some sort of opinion. However, the opinion that matters is yours. Your college decision is your decision and other people shouldn’t make you feel bad about it. You’ve probably already answered the question “why do you want to go here? How can you see yourself here?” (or something similar). Don’t confuse other people’s comments with the right answer: your answer.