When asked to write an article in tandem with my mother about how the college application and selection process affected us both, my initial reaction was something like, “What is there to say? That was so not a big deal.” The whole thing seemed so four months ago.
But then I quickly remembered that I’d spent nearly a year in panic mode, worried that I wouldn’t get into any of the colleges to which I’d applied. I’d even made up a series of elaborate alternative plans to make me feel better. I could teach yoga, or sell cupcakes! I could go to circus school and become a trapeze artist, or I could take a more normal path and go to community college. The day I finally got my first acceptance letter was so exciting. When I got my ninth, I was walking on air. I couldn’t have been more thrilled.
I also remembered that receiving those acceptances did not mean an end to my worries. Rather, each acceptance letter filled me with more angst – angst over deciding which offer to accept. When that April 1st decision deadline loomed, I experienced something of an existentialist crisis over the whole decision.
Admittedly, the first issue on my brain was money. Should money matter? How much should money matter? Would asking my parents to pay for a more expensive school be selfish? Would it make me happier or more successful in the long run?
And then there was the issue of who I am as a person and where I would fit in. Am I ambitious? Do I want the most rigorous education possible? A super high-powered job? What do I even want to study? Am I more the creative hipster that would fit in at Kenyon? Or am I more of the friendly, happy-go-lucky breed typical at St. Mary’s College of Maryland? Maybe I was wrong to rule out big schools with their large class sizes and big party scenes. Maybe locked inside me there’s a kegger-loving football fan that I never knew existed, and I would enjoy a big school. Who the heck am I and what do I want? I joked to my mom that the meaning of life should also be an important consideration because that would determine how much weight we should give each individual criteria but, seriously, these questions were driving me crazy.
Five days before decision time, I still didn’t have the answers to most of these questions, nor do I have them now, but I did eventually choose a school! I decided to go to St. Mary’s College: a small, public, liberal arts school two hours from home. I think when it came down to it, I had a gut feeling that I’d be really happy there, and I liked the idea of having money left over to study abroad and to do cool things during the summer. I have a feeling that the most valuable things that I’ll learn during the college years won’t come from my classes, but from my experiences outside of them, and going to St. Mary’s will give me the most out-of-the-classroom opportunities. It was a good school for me and it will make my parents’ lives easier and I’m really happy with my decision.
At this point all the worrying I did last year about the decision seems so silly. I had all good options; I couldn’t have made a wrong choice. So for everyone reading this going through the process, I’ll give my advice: Relax. Work reasonably hard, do some research before applying, and you will get into a school that’s right for you. You might not get into your top choice – or finances might make going to your top choice not an option – but really, unless you want to major in something uniquely specific, there is no one “right school” for anyone, there are just lots of good options and each of them have their own set of pros and cons. And even if you don’t get in anywhere you want to go, or if you realize that you hate the school once you get there, you can always transfer. If I learned anything this year it’s how silly all of the pressure surrounding getting into college is. It is not the be all end all, I swear.
Maddie Alpert is enjoying a relaxing summer free of any major decisionmaking. AND is SO EXCITED to go to GLI in a couple of weeks.