Choosing which college to attend is one of the most challenging decisions a young student will have to make. Many students develop exhaustive lists of pros and cons, read reviews, scour financial aid options and visit each school on their "short list" to procure a substantial impression.
The encouraging news, if you are worrying yourself sick over this question, is that all of the schools you've been accepted to are excellent choices.
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This might sound counterintuitive, and you may not believe that there could be more than one best university for you. But the fact is that a college is not a magical machine capable of transformation – you, however, are.
The school provides you with opportunities to learn and grow. Different institutions will offer different opportunities, but you simply cannot deduce which will work perfectly for you until you go there. Here are three strong reasons why you shouldn't overthink your final college choice:
1. Your career path is still undetermined. When I finished high school, I was determined to follow in the footsteps of my hero, Richard Feynman, and become the next great physicist. My college research focused on achieving that goal. I was accepted everywhere I applied, but because of late developments, I selected my backup option, based primarily on proximity to my family.
As it happened, my devotion to physics didn’t survive my exposure to linear algebra. Three years later, I had found a new field, and I was assisting on a research project in the Canadian Arctic, carrying a World War II-era rifle to ward off polar bears. I was 2,000 miles from the nearest physics laboratory.
Two years after that, I was exploring a 3,000-year-old tomb on my third month of an expedition to Greece funded by a travel fellowship I had won while in college. That fellowship didn’t even exist when I’d been considering which institution to attend. Best of all, I met my future wife in a class I took to prepare for the Arctic research trip, and we met again in Greece while on separate expeditions to Europe.
When I started college, I had no idea that I could develop a career from studying the natural world outside the laboratory. It sounds foolish in retrospect, but I had not even considered the biological sciences when I was researching schools.
Higher education is as much about growth and exploration as it is about preparation for a career. Until you arrive, you simply do not grasp all that is possible. Each of the colleges you've been accepted to can permit you room for growth and exploration.
2. You do not yet know whom you will meet. The individuals you encounter during college will be an important part of your exploration. You may be able to pre-emptively investigate professors, but the great majority of students with whom you will attend college have not even enrolled yet.
As long as you've chosen to apply to institutions that suit your mentality and values to maximize your chances of meeting like-minded people, you don't have reason to worry about where you ultimately end up. The truth is that there are amazing students everywhere. Being open to meeting them is more important than the campus at which you choose to meet them.
3. You will change as a person. Finally, you will be growing and evolving at an incredible rate throughout the college experience. The person you will become will be shaped in large part by the environment you choose.
In other words, you will be adapting to the school you select, and it will thus become the one best school for you. It sounds like magic, but it is just the human ability to flourish in a new environment.
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While you certainly can't choose a school at random and hope for the best, trust in the fact that you've already researched, created a list of pros and cons and followed your instincts regarding where to apply.
The simple truth is that there is no one best college for you. Some schools are better fits than others, but any of the schools you've been accepted at will allow you to excel. Look for the possibility of growth, look for interesting people you would like to spend time with and look for a place that makes you excited for the future.