It’s that time of year again and no doubt there are many high school seniors quivering in their boots. Have no fear! I’m here to confess all of my mistakes, so you can avoid them. When I was applying for college, I had no idea what I wanted. I applied for schools based on vanity, what my parents wanted, or which schools I thought I could get in. I didn’t look at the big picture— what do I actually want to learn in school? What do I actually want to do after four years? I picked a major that my parents approved of and what I thought would help me get a job after graduation. Not only did I not study what I wanted, but I also couldn’t find a job after graduating during the recession of 2009. And as for pleasing the parents, they could never be pleased. I think kids are smarter today and are going after what they really want in life. Here’s an extra guide and what I would do differently.
- Make a list of your interests + a safety interest. Rank them from most passionate to least passionate. Which one sends a thrill through your soul? You can then use the next four years to discover what you really like. Maybe a new interest will arise. That’s okay. At the very least, you have a game plan and a basic view of what you like. This is your big picture. For me, it would be film, english, graphic design (coming from podunk Texas, I didn’t even know graphic design was a term back in 2005. I loved drawing but I had no idea how it could be applied in the real world), industrial design, and computer programming (this would be my safety) in order of interest.
- Make a list of the top schools and a safety school for each of your interests.
3. Contact the department of interest (ie the film department) + the office of admissions for each of those schools. Call them. Email them. Tweet them. Learn more about them. It’s one thing to be a high ranking school but do you actually like the people there? Do you actually like the teachers? Do you think you can learn from them? If not, move on. If you have the finances, visit them. Get a tour. Sit in during class. Ask uncomfortable questions.
From this, you should be able to generate a list of top schools — a top list of schools that’s the best fit for you, your interests, and your personality. Remember, going to school or not going to school is for you. Do what is the best for you. This is your life and you should love every moment of it.