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Your college decision doesn’t define you

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By Stephanie Wang

Decisions are hard, I know. Soup or salad? Cake or ice cream? Cookie or brownie?

Really, even making decisions on something as easy as what to eat can be difficult, much less where you’re going to spend the next four years. For the other high school seniors, uncommitted, terrified about the choice you’ve just had to make, I know it’s scary taking the plunge.

Perhaps you were rejected from your dream school, or, debatably worse, accepted to your dream school but unable to afford it. Perhaps you think you know where you want to go, but you’re worried about this and that, and what if everyone there hates you there and you have no friends and you fail all y–

Relax. It’s all going to be okay.

As someone uncommitted just a few days ago, I can undoubtedly relate, especially when it seems every one of your options is good and holy crap, how does someone just step on a college campus and know that it’s a perfect fit? How can someone possibly stomach a binding Early Decision, knowing where they want to be as early as November? If you’re like me, you’re probably thinking something along the lines of, “What’s the secret? How do I know where I’m meant to go?”

First and foremost, please remember that college is not the end destination; college is not where you should be peaking. No matter what college you choose, more times than not, your happiness and success at a college is a result of self-determination. A result of you, standing up and resolving, “I will be happy and successful.”

Perhaps, most importantly, remember that college is a personal decision, a decision that can’t be decided by your parents, friends, or for that matter, absolute strangers that think they know your best interest. It’s you that’s going to college – not your Aunt Sally or your mom. It’s you, and you better be invested in your own education.

Go to the school you think you’ll be the successful at; not the school with the highest ranking or the school that everyone wants you to go. For me, personally, that was Vanderbilt University, but I sure know that much of my family and friends, including my mom and dad, wanted me to go to MIT or UChicago instead. I’m sure many of you reading this are thinking the same.

But for me, it boiled down to a couple things: for one, flexibility. It’s at Vanderbilt where I would have the most flexibility and the opportunity to explore as many of my interests as I would like, particularly since there’s no limit to the amount of AP credit I can use. As someone excessively indecisive, Vanderbilt made the most sense for me to attend. Instead of being pigeon-holed in a humanities-centered or a STEM-centered school, I’ll be attending a good school with both humanities and STEM. And, like many other of my peers, it also boiled down to money. Perhaps my biggest concern was regarding where I would fit in socially, but it only makes sense that I can find my group anywhere – in a school with over 6,000 undergraduates, it only makes sense you’ll find your crowd.

To conclude, the answer to “What’s the secret?” is that there simply isn’t one. Forget US News rankings or arbitrary assignments of “prestige.” There isn’t a “wrong choice” or a school that will set you up for failure – it’s what you do at the school that makes the difference.

I argue that there isn’t a school that’s a perfect fit for any student; realistically speaking, there will always be something about the college that you don’t like. Think about your college decision in the scope of trade-offs and opportunity costs: about what school requires you to sacrifice the least and grants you the most opportunities, not just now, but further down the line. Write your thoughts down, considering the pros and cons based on you, not what someone else thinks. Don’t think about how you’re “letting someone down” if you choose this school over another school; keep in mind only your own happiness and future.

I wish all you seniors the best of luck, not just in college, but in life. College isn’t the end destination; it’s the beginning of a new adventure, and I hope it’s one filled with happiness and success. For you juniors beginning to embark on this college journey, I wish you only the best (and also, please remember that a college decision does not define you).

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