It’s so hard to know. One thing we do know is that putting tremendous pressure on yourself is not going to help answer that key question, as you prepare to leave high school for college, from relative safety to the unknown.
Some students begin thinking about this process in 9th grade, or even before. Others go kicking and screaming into the search and apply process, sometimes nudged by a parent or two, in the fall of their junior year. And many want to just apply early decision, fast, to get the whole painful process over with. We believe that if you are true to yourself, you will do this on your terms, in your own way, in your time, and hopefully with help.
So to start: take a breath. There is, for sure, a college for you. It may not be the college you thought you wanted to go to, or the one your parents set their sites on. And thanks to this crazy, everything-happens-at-once, the-world-at-your-fingertips life we now live, there are countless resources available to you to help make your college search efficient, rewarding, even fun. [Probably not painless, because not much is, right?].
Next: know yourself. Eric Furda, a wise dean at the University of Pennsylvania describes students as worriers or warriors. Respect who you are and how you do things. By the time you are a junior, you probably know if you are the super organized-get-it-done type, the put-it-off-to-the last-minute, or a kind-of-terrified person, or somewhere in-between. Take time to assess yourself. A You Science assessment, if you have done that, will give you useful insights. Or you can use online readiness surveys like this one, to help.
You have a right to be who you are and a responsibility to know what you want. Be honest, be curious, think about it. Don’t worry about what you don’t know, use what you do. And remember that ruling colleges out can be as important as ruling them in.
Then: lean on us. Your parents, family, counselors, teachers, mentors, and people like us are here to help you utilize all possible resources to find your way. We know it is stressful. It’s the first leap into a larger world you will take. We look back to remember how you were and then to today to figure out where you are, and ahead, to help you make sound decisions and good choices.
In the words of Tina Fey, you can be the kid at the top of the water slide who won’t go, or you can just go down the shoot. We hope you take a pause at the top, assess where you might end up, and then go for it!