Image from Flickr Commons

Image from Flickr Commons.

Choosing  a school is a monumental decision, one that can be slightly overwhelming. There are thousands of secondary institutions out there and the chances of you being able to look at each and every one isn’t promising. Regardless, people are able to narrow down their college choices, but is it possible to make your list too small?

Absolutely. Many students fixate on one particular school which they label their “first-choice” or “top pick”, and don’t entirely explore their other options. This narrow mindset can be unhealthy and you might miss out on various opportunities. Here are some guidelines for college application season.

Don’t sacrifice happiness for your school aspirations

TP staffer Katie Lewis allowed herself to become fixated on attending an Ivy League school. “I tried to take all of the hardest classes and made sure to get straight-A’s all through high school, and I started to lose sight of why I was interested in the material I was so diligently memorizing and regurgitating and reapplying. I started to let my creativity slide in the name of my Ivy-league aspirations,” Katie says. Her top choices were Yale, Princeton, and MIT; after being rejected from all three, she decided that the University of Virginia was a better fit for her, which “worked wonders on [her] emotional state.” 

Don’t prematurely commit yourself to a school

In my experience, it’s better to be open to different options because you might discover that there’s another school that might work better. As I’ve discussed previously, I thought I would be attending Whitman College. I fell in love with the school as soon as I saw it, and I could not stop talking about what a wonderful school it is. My parents, teachers, and friends all thought I would be attending Whitman in the fall. It was, however, the first school that I had visited and therefore left a stronger impression than the others. I was fortunate enough to be accepted to Whitman but I knew that I still needed to visit the other schools that had accepted me. Spring break came and I found myself in Spokane, WA., visiting Gonzaga University.

Suddenly, I found myself conflicted. My visit to Gonzaga was phenomenal, and the school I had thought was “perfect” for me didn’t stand out as much anymore. My trip to Gonzaga was followed by a visit to Whitman, and I realized that while I still loved the school, it didn’t make me “ooh” and “ahh” any more. If I had attended Whitman, I think I would’ve been happy, but I ultimately chose Gonzaga University, and I hold strong to my decision. I look back and am thankful that I had chosen to visit more schools. I didn’t have to, but I did, and found a school that ended up being a better fit. 

I firmly believe that there are many schools out there that you will be perfectly happy at, and this is a sentiment that has been expressed by my peers as well. It’s easy to focus on one school, but that doesn’t allow you to explore all of the options out there. Take a chance! When asked if she had any regrets, Katie says “sometimes I still imagine what my life would be like right now at an Ivy, and I realize that I would probably be miserable. I’m enjoying my life fully here, and I finally feel like I have just the right balance between work and play. I’ve found a place I can grow at my own pace, and I think that’s the best you can hope for in a college”. 

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