Taken August 2011, on my first night of college

Taken August 2011, on my first night of college

By the time this is posted, I will be less than a month from college graduation.

I loved college. My four years at The College of William & Mary were amazing, fun, and formative. This time helped me grow a lot as a person.

Something I’ve spent a lot of time doing in college is helping other make their college decisions. I have the gift of perspective and the privilege of time. I can say to a high school senior, “Trust me, in a year this will all make sense and you’ll laugh that you agonized about this decision.”

But is that fair? With the gift of hindsight, how well did 17-Year-Old Jillian do at choosing a college?

The List

Technically, I only applied to one college (more on that later). But I had seven schools on my list:

  • William & Mary
  • Colgate
  • Hamilton
  • Lafayette
  • Lehigh
  • Kenyon
  • Muhlenberg

I wanted liberal arts, I wanted small. I wouldn’t apply to a school I didn’t like. So I had a short list. I don’t regret this choice. Seven schools you’re confident about (provided one is a real hardcore safety school) is way better than fifteen you’ve barely researched. I hold true to that belief.

The Picking Method

Each of the schools had to meet a specific criteria

  • The school must have no more than seven thousand undergraduates. Preferably no more than five thousand.
  • The school could not be in a city, campus life had to be centered around the campus
  • The school could not have more than two people from my school already in attendance.
  • The school needed to have open passage between the departments. If I wanted to take a theatre class or a music class I needed to be able to do that as a non-major.
  • The school had to be academically challenging and rigorous, but with a cooperative learning style.

Notice that I didn’t care about prestige. I’m not going to speculate too hard, but I’ll just say my scores were above the middle 50% for William & Mary. It’s a great school and it’s astoundingly hard to get into (especially for my demographic, out-of-state girls). But if I were a prestige chaser it probably wouldn’t have topped my list. It didn’t matter to me. It got annoying to have to explain where I was going, but other than that who freaking cares what a stranger thinks?

I knew what I wanted, and I think I nailed that list with William & Mary. I got the academically rigorous environment I wanted. I got a close-knit community feel. I like that I take classes in a lot of random departments. I’ve had a great academic experience.

And I don’t regret my decision to go to a school that wasn’t popular from my high school and very far away. I wanted a clean slate. I wanted a new adventure. I wanted to experience something different. I got it. It was terrifying at first but I built a new life, I made friends who feel like my family. Honestly the hardest part of being hundreds of miles from home is that I’m about to move back home to New York and nearly all of my friends will be in DC.

Applying to One School

I only applied to one school. I applied to William & Mary Early Decision and I got in. I had the other applications filled out, but I didn’t want to pay the application fees until I knew about W&M. Simple as that.

I’m a really decisive person. I knew in my gut that I was going to apply ED to William & Mary. I had the feeling of “rightness” when I toured (literally, I cried when I was there because it felt so right).

And I don’t regret that decision. Genuinely, I don’t. I think that if I had gotten into other schools I still would have chosen William & Mary, which is why I applied ED in the first place.

My Experience

Is William & Mary perfect? Absolutely not. Like any other college student I have a laundry list of complaints.

But is it a great place to go to school? Yes.

I have a wonderful life here. I have places to go and things to do all the time. I am busy and exhausted and so much more fulfilled than I’ve ever been before.

I’ve learned to write a kick-ass essay because I had TAs and professors who sat with me and held my hand and forced me to be a better writer. I learned that not only do I love psychology, but also that I truly have a passion for developmental psychology and social issues.

I realized that I would be much happier working with people as a guidance counselor than doing any kind of business and marketing because of the various job opportunities I had at William & Mary.

I joined a sorority that I love and proudly stand behind. I helped grow an improv group that went from the new kids on the block to a big name on campus.

I had rough semesters. I took a leap into counseling to deal with anxiety and stress. It’s still hard, but I’m on a better path.

I had great semesters. I had fun, I made close friends, I went to Europe, I got straight As, I fell in love, and I got into graduate school.

Would I Have Changed Anything?

Taken April 2015

Taken April 2015, at my senior sorority formal 

I’m no longer blonde (thank goodness), but more importantly I’m smiling not because there’s a camera on me but because I’m having the time of my life with my friends. I’m less scared. I’m more confident.

I’m going to a graduate school next year that I never would have dreamed of getting into my freshman year of college. I was able to go there because I had mentors and friends who told me that I could absolutely do it. I have drive and a path, a some of that is me, but a lot of that is the environment that I placed myself in for college.

So would I have changed anything?
Looking back no. I think I had a good head on my shoulders and made my choice for the right reasons. I think I was exactly where I was supposed to be.

If I could go back I wouldn’t change anything.

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the author

Jillian is better known by her pseudonym “CollegeApp Chick", which is half college application blog and half small private college advising business. She’s currently studying Psychology and Religious Studies at a small public school south of the Mason Dixon line. When not advising, studying, or blogging Jillian is an active member of the Shakespeare theatre club, sandbox improv, women’s chorus, and is an officer in a social sorority. She likes to talk, a lot. Most importantly, Jillian wears dresses more than 250 days a year. For more of Jillian’s tips, find her at her website or her Tumblr.

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