Going to college has been a dream of mine since an age when I thought that having the cutest mascot should be the top priority of any respectable institution. Considering I now attend a school where our mascot is the yellowjacket, a lot has changed since then. However, because of my commitment to achieving this goal (for gradually more sensible reasons), the college admissions journey was something I took really seriously. When college decision season rolled around, I ended up learning seven lessons, both about the admissions process and life in general, that I will carry to college and beyond.

1. Be Considerate of Others

Since college decision season can be a pretty sensitive time for people, one of the biggest things I learned was to be careful about how you express your emotions. Even if you’re disappointed by your options, sometimes the school you’re settling for could be someone else’s first choice, and this could be especially hurtful if that person couldn’t go there for one reason or another. I remember some people talking about wanting to do better than one of the schools they were accepted to, which was incidentally my friend’s dream school. Although I’m sure they didn’t mean to bring anyone else down, overhearing these types of conversations was a good reminder that it isn’t necessary to talk down about one school to emphasize why another school is great. 

2. Don’t Feel Pressured to Show School Pride

As someone who loves any excuse to get dressed up, I was really looking forward to the opportunity to celebrate National College Decision Day, which is when seniors at some high schools (including my own) wear apparel to represent their future colleges. I was so caught up in the hype of showing school pride that I express shipped a shirt just so I could wear it in time, only to notice that the shirt was basically unnecessary since people who were curious asked me about my plans anyway. With the benefit of hindsight, I also wish I hadn’t gone through the trouble of rushing to buy a shirt because most college merchandise is overpriced and I collected a ton of free stuff once school started.

3. Keep Working Hard

After committing to a college, I was feeling ready to move on from high school and get started with the next chapter of my life. However, I also didn’t really have it in me to throw in the towel and give up on my classes, so nothing in my life really changed besides the fact that I now knew where I planned on heading a few months later. In the end, this worked out well because I was able to earn AP credits, which could come in handy later down the road.

4. Trust Your Gut

Out of my options, I ended up choosing the college that was probably least well-known back home even though it seemed to surprise a lot of people. Now that I’m here, though, I’m super glad I trusted myself. It really hit me how much I love my school when I was cramming two hours before a midterm and, despite how stressed I was feeling, it randomly crossed my mind that I was sad the year was flying by so fast. Although it’s good to listen to other people’s advice, being forced to make a life-changing decision for myself reminded me that no one knows you better than yourself.

5. Don’t Give Up Without Trying

During college decision season, I came to the difficult realization that paying for the school I wanted to attend most would require a huge sacrifice from my parents. Although I don’t doubt that my parents would be willing to try to help me out as much as possible, I felt like it would be selfish to even ask them for so much without at least trying to make things easier. As a result, I decided to appeal for merit scholarships, thinking it would be a futile effort. When I later found out that my appeal was approved, I was thrilled that I pushed back and didn’t settle for my initial situation.

6. Thank Your Recommenders

Aside from being nice to update the people that wrote your recommendation letters, it’s important to take some time to show appreciation for the people that helped you get where you are. Since I know that teachers are pretty busy, it briefly crossed my mind that I might be bothering my recommenders by trying to tell them about my plans, but all of them were really supportive when I filled them in. Ultimately, I’m glad I was able to express my gratitude to my recommenders and hearing their encouragement meant a lot.

7. Live in the Moment

Towards the end of the school year, many of the conversations I was having would lead back to college in at least some capacity. Although it was nice that my friends and I shared the same excitement about college, looking back, there was plenty of time to think about the future—especially college—later. If I could tell myself anything, I would say to enjoy the final months in high school with my friends because, while I still keep in touch with my closest friends, life changes a lot once you get to college.

At the time, applying to various places and finally choosing a college was pretty overwhelming. A year later, though, I’m glad that college decision season pushed me to take control of my future and taught me valuable life lessons along the way.

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