NOTE: I am not a college admissions expert. Just a dad, trying to do the best for my kids,
just like you.
It’s decision time. It’s time to pick the college that’s right for you.
You’ve scoured the websites, perused the rankings, visited the colleges, attended the
classes, talked to the professors, and eaten in the college towns.
Now put all of that away and talk to us about how it feels.
Picture it. What does your dorm look like? Do you live alone or have a roommate? Is it organized or does it look like a thrift store and a deli had a baby and that baby yarfed all over your bed? (side note: Sometimes when babies yawn, they barf a little on your shoulder. Yarf. I made that up. You yarfed on me plenty. I wouldn’t change it for the world.)
Now, wake up in that room. Stretch. Wipe away the eye boogers.
Is there a bathroom in your room or do you zombie-shuffle down the hallway to a communal row of toilet stalls? Things to consider: Downside to a communal bathroom: the zombie-shuffle down the hallway. Upside: you don’t have to clean the toilet.
Now you’ve showered (uh, okay, maybe not, I remember college) and you’re ready for
class. You go outside. Is it warm or cold? Rainy or dry? Are you walking, riding a bike, driving or waiting for a bus? Are mountains peeking through a scattering of clouds? Is a shimmer off a lake pleasantly blinding? Does the cacophony of the city awaken and energize you?
Is it a campus with natural green space (this might appeal to you), or does it have the
vibrancy of an urban setting (this might appeal to you)?
Are the students hunkered down, studying between classes or
are they tossing a frisbee to a bandana-wearing dog?
There is a lot to think about when choosing the right college for you.
Ask yourself: Will I feel safe here?
In some cases, feeling safe and feeling inspired are in opposition. Often great suffering
begets great art. I get it: you only get stronger by lifting heavy weights. No, really, I get it.
But, as your parent, I will forgo your fame as a tortured soul to know that you have a
working furnace, a bright light under which to study, and enough food in the fridge for when a friend drops by unannounced.
Will I feel challenged here?
My favorite line from “Sports Night” is when Isaac tells Jeremy, “If you’re dumb, surround
yourself with smart people. If you’re smart, surround yourself with smart people who
disagree with you.”
Will this place encourage discourse and debate without disdain? Do facts inform opinions rather than the other way around? Do the professors have life experiences (not just degrees) from which they draw wisdom?
There’s a saying that you should dress for the job you want, not the job you have. To make
a relevant analogy, does this college help you become who you want to be, not reinforce
who you already know you are?
It’s impossible to know for sure, but trust your gut.
Maybe lean on MLK: “You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”
Will I feel confident here? Confidence follows stones laid by effort. There is no other path.
Try. Fail. Learn. Try again.
Don’t pick a college on the name recognition, but if you can see yourself thriving there
Will I feel connected here?
A better question might be, “Can you OFFER connection here?” All successful relationships–teacher and student, coach and player, friend and friend, husband and wife – ALL
successful relationships are mutually beneficial.
If you offer connection, you will receive it. I promise.
At least once a week, reach out to a friend and say, “How are you doing?”
Listen, not to give advice, but rather to offer comfort and support.
Get used to saying, “Yes.” “Yes, I want to join your organization. Yes, I want to go running at 6:00am. Yes, I want to contribute to your research. Yes, I want to try, to learn, to do more.”
Will I feel supported here?
Will the professors know your name, and will they push you to be your best self? Will they be accessible yet assertive? Will they be willing to scrap a lesson plan in favor of an interesting conversational tangent?
Will students be welcoming or wary? Will this school be a place where students claw their
way to the top or will the rising tide of cooperation raise all boats?
Will I be inspired here?
Do you derive inspiration from fact or faith …or both? Are you moved by the grandest of
achievements or the smallest acts of kindness … or both?
But most importantly, will I be happy here?
Yes, if you’re honest with yourself as you answer the questions above and if your college
choice leads to a group of curious, comical, caring, committed companions. I hope you find
true friends (like I did), not just people with whom you’re friendly.
There’s a difference.
George Bernard Shaw said, “Life isn’t about finding yourself. It’s about creating yourself.”
This isn’t the end of a journey.
It’s the beginning of one.
This is a contributed post by Pete Crozier. Find his book, Ten Hundred Hopes: A collection of wit, wisdom and weird wonderings from a father of four, on Amazon.