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Feeling alone as you swim through the terrifying waters known as the college admission process? Have no fear! We have several seniors blogging about ups, downs, and random in-betweens of their college process for the next 12 months (from June 2014 to June 2015!). Sit back, relax, and get that “OMG I totally get you, bro” feeling. Information for how to contact a blogger will be at the bottom of his/her posts.

Once upon a time, there was a girl who asked an older friend for advice on choosing the perfect college. The older friend laughed good-naturedly, told her friend it wasn’t as scary as it seemed, and said that everyone changes their mind at least once, sometimes multiple times. At the time, the younger girl thought the advice applied to everyone — everyone but her, that is. She knew where she wanted to go and was dead set on going there and only there. Other colleges tried to woo her with little spiral booklets quoting admissions facts and websites with personality quizzes that  told her their college was the best match, but she refused to be swayed.

Then she opened her eyes. She remembered that there are a million* other colleges to consider and that, with those odds, there wasn’t a perfect match. There were perfect matches.

I tell this cautionary tale to make sure that you, dear readers, don’t get caught up in the madness like I did. There are so many options out there that it can be tempting to pick one almost at random and stick with it come heck or high water. But instead of letting the multitude of choices scare you, embrace them.

That being said, choosing a college has been an extremely messy process for me. It seems that every month, I’m extolling the virtues of a new college and happily believing that it’ll be the last time I change my mind. . . until the next month. I’d love to give you a list of things I want in a college, but that constantly changes too. Instead, I’ll document my journey.

When I began my college list as a wee high school sophomore, I wanted to go to a brand name school. This was  mostly because those were the only ones I’d heard of before. I also decided that whatever college I ultimately chose  had to be in New York City. During this phase, my only other priority was going somewhere with top notch academics. This of course led me to Columbia University. The single digit acceptance rate quickly grew discouraging, however, so I scoured the area for other matches. It was then I found Barnard.

Barnard had everything I wanted (location in New York City, strong academics) and things I wanted but didn’t know yet (small class sizes, accessible faculty, a strong writing program, a sense of community). The only problem was that it was a women’s college. I wasn’t quite sure how I would come to terms with that fact, but I was sure I would someday. Somehow.

The wishing fairy was listening. Over time I not only accepted the college’s single sex status but also came to praise it. Then I decided I absolutely wanted to go to a women’s college, so I modified my search. At this point, I was probably a young junior. I was still pretty obsessed with Barnard, but at the end of that year, I took the leap and decided to at least look at other options. By that time, I knew exactly (kind of-ish) what I wanted: a small liberal arts college, preferably single sex, and preferably in the Northeast.

Just after I reached this tantalizing state of equilibrium, I realized something else: I’d have to pay for this. Like, with money I didn’t have. Which meant I would have to take out loans. (Or get lots of scholarships, but those aren’t guaranteed.)

I frantically looked up the net price calculators for every school on my list, typed in every financial factoid I knew, and hit the submit button many, many times. Some prices made my jaw drop. Some made my heart sputter. All of them changed the way I previously thought about college. I realized that paying for some colleges won’t necessarily have you searching for stray pennies in the street, but others definitely will.

By now, you probably want a list. Well, without further ado, here you go (in no particular order):

  • Barnard College
  • Scripps College
  • Wellesley College
  • Mt. Holyoke College
  • Hamilton College
  • Skidmore College
  • Amherst College
  • Vassar College

The first four are single sex colleges. All  are liberal arts colleges. My list will probably change multiple times as I realize that this college is to far away from the city or that college doesn’t have awesome food or some piece of college mail piques my interest. I’ve quickly learned that nothing is certain. Tomorrow I could decide that liberal arts colleges are simply too small and scrap the entire list. Or I could fall deeply and unequivocally in love with one college and never look back. I think part of the fun is the unpredictability of it all.

This mindset is a radical change from what I thought a few months ago. I desperately wanted to apply somewhere Early Decision because I both loved a certain school and wanted to get the process over with as soon as possible. There was a slight problem however: I loved other schools too. There’s no need to be as tense as I was about college admissions. It’s a matchmaking process. As eagerly as we all want College X to accept us, Colleges Y and Z are just as eagerly hoping that we’ll apply for them too. And with a million* colleges to choose from, everyone will find their perfect matches sooner or later.

*Figure may be slightly exaggerated

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