One of my favorite conversations that we have in this office comes up with parents who are going through the college search for the first time with their children. While this often quickly progresses into the financial impact of higher education costs, the first couple of minutes are always a breath of fresh air. While 2015 marks my 10 year departure from high school, I can vividly remember all of the thought, research and emotion that went into the college search and how I felt throughout the whole process. I’m often asked, ‘if you could give my son/daughter a couple of words of advice, what would they be?’ Putting the quick one-line sarcasm aside, I figured I could share some of my youthful wisdom.
Most importantly, it is important to keep things in perspective. For most high school junior and seniors, choosing a higher education institution (or making the decision not to attend) is the biggest choice they have been faced with to this point in their life. It is a decision that commands time and due diligence, which often takes a back seat to school, athletic and social commitments. Placement statistics, program accolades and competitive entrance requirements can sometimes create an allure about a school, but once you’ve received your acceptance letter you should not make your decision based upon which of the institutions ranks highest on the latest US News college rankings list. Remember, the success or failure of your next four years will be predicated on your level of engagement with your classmates, faculty and the resources provided by the school itself.
During your college search, everyone is going to have an opinion on the schools you are considering. Don’t always listen to what others have to say, you’re the one that is going to be attending the school, it should be your decision. Take the time to form your own opinion of a particular school or program. My parents encouraged me to look at a variety of schools all over the East Coast to get a feel for what I liked and what didn’t feel right before making a decision. After an exhaustive search, I finally went to visit Bentley University (Bentley College back in 2005), ironically against my will. I’ll never forget what people told me about Bentley before I went to visit it for the first time. The general perception was as follows: it’s in the middle of nowhere; only accountants go there; its 70% male; it’s a tiny school and there are a lot of stairs. Hardly somewhere that sounded fun, exciting or even worth looking at for that matter. On paper it just didn’t sound attractive, and at the time I really didn’t know anyone who had a first-hand experience going to school there. Within 10 minutes of setting foot on campus, I told my parents this is where I was going to go to college. While some of the things I was told were true (there really are a lot of stairs), most of what I had hear was nonsense.
College is, and always will be, what you make of it. For many, it’s a four year blitzkrieg comprised of late nights, early mornings and mixed set of good and bad decisions. Bad things will happen. You’ll put on weight, skip a class, sleep too late, embarrass yourself, fight with your roommate and maybe even fail a test. Good things will happen, too. You’ll make new friends, learn something new, venture out of your comfort zone, enjoy some newfound freedom outside of your parents’ house and hopefully succeed academically. Looking back, I don’t know if I could do it again, but if I had to I wouldn’t change anything I did the first time around.