I don’t think I can ever stress this enough — apply to the widest range of schools that you possibly can when you’re a senior and looking into colleges.
It’s been over a year since I committed to the school that I go to now (Quinnipiac University) and while I absolutely love it here, I also wish that I had applied to a wider range of schools when I had the chance to.
I like to say that I got really lucky. I ended up somewhere that I truly love and that has been giving me countless opportunities, even though this is my first year here. However, my experience could have easily gone the other way in the sense that I could have very easily been unlucky and ended up somewhere that I hated.
My biggest regret during the college application process is limiting myself to my ideal type of school. I knew from the start that I wanted a small, private, liberal-arts school. I could never see myself at a big state school or even at a smaller public school. I wanted the opportunity to get a curriculum without any restrictions, specifically restrictions dictated to the school by the state.
Although I knew that this was the experience I wanted, what ended up happening is that all my schools started to look the same. All of a sudden, every school I applied to and got into morphed into a singular university. The programs were exactly the same, the campuses looked almost identical, the demographic remained consistent and the only difference ended up being the cost.
The cost of school drove my entire decision. It became less about what I wanted in a school and more about how much money I’d be taking out in loans in order to be able to afford where I wanted to be. There weren’t other factors that I could use in order to sway my decision because of the fact that everything was exactly the same.
If I could go back in time and re-apply to schools, I would pick schools that were a lot different from each other, whether it was the size of the school, the type of sports that were big, the demographic/diversity of the student population, the emphasis on certain programs and so much more.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that limiting yourself when it comes to the schools you apply to is never a good idea. I totally understand that there are certain schools you know you’ll never go to and if you’re sure about those, by all means, don’t apply there. However, if you think there’s even the slightest chance that you may end up liking something that’s completely different and out of your comfort zone, I definitely recommend applying.
I think my decision would have differed drastically if I had given myself more options. I was so focussed on what I was sure I didn’t want that I ended up applying to a bunch of similar places and sitting down in April using just the price tag as an indicator of where I wanted to go to school ended up being one of the most difficult things I had to do.
Don’t be afraid to apply out of your safety net and please realize that although there’s no such thing as a “perfect” school, you have the potential to come pretty damn close.