On Friday, 2500 students from high schools all over the world opened their JHU admissions portals to find the words “Welcome to Hopkins!” across their screens. It’s crazy for me to think that just a year ago, I was one of those students, eagerly awaiting those life-altering words. Prior to March 18th, I thought that waiting for decision releases would be the most stressful time of senior year; I was wrong. After hearing back from schools, I actually was even more stressed. I was presented with some great opportunities, and I had to pick just one. Deciding where to go to school for four years is difficult for anyone, let alone someone like me, who can barely decide what to eat for breakfast.
Don’t get me wrong, this awkward period of time from now until May 1st doesn’t have to be stressful. If anything, it should be a time to relax knowing that your hard work has finally paid off. Upon reflection, I can see why this period of time was so stressful for me, and I want to pass on my new ~wisdom~ to you, dearest admits, in hopes that your whirlwind of a college process has a happy ending:
1. Remember that college isn’t the “end-all be-all”
I know, I know, it really really feels like your entire life led up to this and all of your self worth is based on this and you swear that your entire future is dependent on this one decision — let me be the first to tell you: it’s not. Yes, college is important, and yes, it may feel like a lot of what you did in high school revolved around getting into college. However, the school you end up attending neither erases nor accentuates all of your previous accomplishments. They are still there, and they’re not going anywhere. Also, your future is not determined by the school you attend. In the same way that you had to work hard in high school to get into a good college, you will have to work hard at any college to set yourself up with the maximum number of opportunities for your future. Essentially, no matter what school you go to, you will get out of it what you put into it. So stop worrying about getting a degree with a certain name on it, and start worrying about finding out what motivates you to do your best work, regardless of where you end up.
2. Go to admitted student days with an open mind
There are a lot of stereotypes about colleges. Before applying to schools, I already had an image in my mind of exactly what they were like, which may have even stopped me from applying to schools that could have been a good fit for me. It’s so easy to listen to what everyone around you is saying and fail to look at the facts in front of you. And definitely do not judge an entire school off of one weird or super cool person from your high school who goes there. Chances are, the student body as a whole is nothing like this one person, and you were about to avoid a school entirely because you once caught this kid picking their nose in algebra. Instead of listening to stereotypes, make your own assumptions about a school during admitted student days. These are a great time to get a feel for the student body, your future classmates, and the overall feel for the campus. Make sure that you get everything you want out of an admitted student day; remember that if they accepted you, they really want you to come – use that to your advantage! If you want to see a certain part of campus, meet with someone about your major, or find out more about financial aid, just ASK!
3. Take the time to figure out what you want
In the same way that you should avoid listening to stereotypes, sometimes, you should avoid listening to other people entirely (this sounds uber dramatic but you know what I mean)! Remember that this is about your education and your happiness, and no one else can define that for you. Your parents may know a lot about you and know a lot about “the real world”, but you are the only person who can truly decide what would make you happy. Before May 1st, take a day to sit down and look into all of your options completely by yourself. Make a pros and cons list of each of the schools, even if a pro is something as silly as “the dining hall had like 300 varieties of pizza!!!” Only your personal judgment matters, so be confident in what appeals to you and what kinda turns you off. Try to picture yourself at each school. What would you be involved in? What courses would you take? Who would you be friends with? Take the time to shut out any outside forces that are telling you who to be and what to choose, and maybe you’ll even learn a little more about yourself upon reflection.
If you take anything away from this, I hope that you remember that this decision is totally in your hands. You should never feel like the decision has already been made for you, either by parents or classmates or your future. You, the present you, have all of the control. And therefore you, the present you, will make the right decision, so long as you put your happiness first.