I have always liked November, with Turkey Day, sweater weather, and the overall chill it brings. Except two Novembers ago, when the time for me to apply to college came around. I ended up bombarded with a frantic few weeks, where counselors, parents, loved ones, and random people I would meet all asking, “So have you applied to college yet? Do you know where you’re going? Have you been accepted yet?”
No, no, and no.
If you get lucky, you might escape without a story of their days of fighting to go to college. Everyone fights to go to college now too, but it feels like it is more difficult in our time. During senior year, I enrolled in four AP Classes, so while juggling the homework for that and the never-ending demands of my counselor, it all seemed unachievable. I still had to file my FAFSA, work on Common App and Coalition, get recommendation letters, request transcripts and go to work. My high school also used a system for organizing our college applications called Naviance where we had to fill out career interest surveys and such given to us by our high school counselors, and all of those materials had deadlines too.
All of the nagging, the stress and the kids who already had their acceptance letters (Um, why? How? When?) really drove me to some ridiculous ideas.
I took matters into my own hands and decided to apply to almost any and every college that matched at least ONE of the criteria I wanted in a college. I wanted to make sure that I had a backup plan or a few of them in this case. I sat down and searched for public colleges nearby that had my major. I honestly believed that I wouldn’t get accepted anywhere. Maybe because I thought that I didn’t work hard enough or that my SAT scores were too low. Maybe I should have gotten into archery or horse-back riding to “amplify” my resumé like my mom suggested. I spent a long time focusing on classes and my GPA, so I felt like I neglected other important things like joining more clubs or trying out for sports. But at the time, I could only sit and wait.
To my surprise and dismay, I got accepted into almost all of the colleges I applied to.
A relieving yet traumatic experience, I got an acceptance letter every week; it almost became a routine. My parents stopped getting excited over them. I became more confused and lost than before even applying to colleges. All those universities had great academics, unbelievable study abroad programs and pretty good financial aid. I didn’t know which ones to visit, either, because I was accepted into colleges all over the eastern seaboard. Later on, I actually realized that visiting before and not after acceptance would help with the decision process, but I wouldn’t admit that my high school life studies teacher was right about that (he was).
Throw in more stress, frustration, college visits and tedious online research, and finally, I found my answer. I felt like I got lost in some college la la land, and I failed to realize that I had gotten accepted into my dream university, the one university I’ve wanted to get into since middle school but never thought I would, the Pennsylvania State University, home of the Nittany lions, THON and the famous “WE ARE” chant.
The moment I stepped on campus, I knew that I would call this place home for the next four years.
While I applied to many different types of colleges, including ones in major cities or ones that looked like Hogwarts, Penn State was something else. It reminded me of the universities I’d seen on TV, yet it didn’t intimidate me. It had a great overall atmosphere. Students on the street constantly bumped into people they knew (keep in mind that over 40,000 undergraduates study on this campus). Penn State always puts on engaging and inclusive events, so I easily got attached. My parents seemed very convinced too, even if they didn’t admit it at first because they wanted me to make my own choice.
Overthinking can make things feel unmanageable, so having the confidence and determination that you will do well helps overcome that. We’ve all worked hard to get out of high school. Everyone’s experiences are unique, and colleges don’t look for the same types of people. And even if you don’t get accepted into your dream college, take it from me and don’t apply to every school with the words “college” or “university” in their name. Unless you want to spend the second semester of your senior year drenched in college brochures.