But what if I choose the wrong college?

By Stephanie Hong
11/11/2016
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After weeks of waiting anxiously, I had just received my last acceptance letter. Being accepted felt amazing, but I was soon plagued with a new anxiety. How could I be sure that by choosing one school, I wasn’t giving up a better experience elsewhere? What if I chose the wrong college?

The idea that there is only one right college, while the rest will only provide a second-rate experience, is a myth. Here’s why you shouldn’t be afraid of missing your destiny when it comes to choosing the best college for you.

Your first choice isn’t the only right choice

For the most part, colleges offer the same basic things: classes, sports, extracurricular activities, and opportunities to meet new friends, professors, and potential employers. Some colleges have more of the specifics you’re looking for and will therefore be a better fit, but of all the schools in the entire world, there isn’t just one that perfectly fits your criteria.

Your college experience is what you make it

Once you get to college, your satisfaction with where you are is mostly dependent on you and what you decide to do with your time. If you want to make lifelong friends, get involved and meet people who have similar interests, hobbies, or values. If you want to have a trusted mentor, invest the time to get to know adults on or off campus. If you want to get ahead and be super career-oriented, study hard and network even harder. You choose what you do with your time and your life. Best college or not, your school won’t choose for you.

Admissions counselors know what they’re looking for

While you’re waiting for your acceptance letters, take comfort in knowing the pressure isn’t all on you. Admissions counselors know what they’re looking for. They may seem daunting and intimidating, but here’s the thing: admissions counselors want to find the best matches for their schools as much as you want to find the best college for you. Each school differs in the manner in which they weigh the importance of academics, extracurricular activities, volunteer and work experience, and personal situations. But the bottom line is if they meet your criteria (translation: you apply) and you meet their criteria (translation: you get accepted), you already know, to some degree, that you’re compatible with that school.

There’s no shame in transferring

Let’s say that you’re at your new school and something just feels terribly wrong (beyond the loneliness and homesickness that people often experience when adjusting to college). You’ve actively tried to make it work with a positive attitude, but you really think you’d be happier elsewhere. No worries, you can always transfer. More than one-third of college students transfer schools at some point. And most schools accept transfer credits from other institutions, so you can often transfer without delaying your graduation.

You can be happy and successful wherever you go

So when you’re agonizing over the life-and-death choices of which colleges to apply to and experiencing the terror of rejection, remember: where you go to school isn’t nearly as important as how you decide to spend your time there. At the end of the day, your happiness will be based on your decisions and your attitude. Whether you end up at a large university or a small community college, you, not the name of the school you go to, will determine how successful you’ll be.

Use our College Match to make sure you find the right schools for you.

About the author

Stephanie HongStephanie is a sophomore industrial engineering major at Clemson University. In her free time, she loves to sing, teach English as a second language, and listen to musical soundtracks obsessively. Oh, and eat. She loves to eat.

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