Dear High School Seniors

12:00:00 AM

Dear High School Seniors,

A year ago, I was standing in your shoes, waiting for the last of my college news to come. It was so hard waiting, and like you, I just wanted to know where I would be in the fall. There's so much on your mind and so much to think about, both good and bad, happy and sad. You're almost at the end of your high school career!

But this is also one of the most stressful times you'll probably have ever been through, and it's so hard. Trust me, I know. But now I'm on the other side. I'm a college freshman, and I just wanted to tell you a little bit about my journey in the hope that it might help you.

For me, choosing a college meant considering (and reconsidering) every last detail. I didn't really enjoy middle and high school and just wanted to be somewhere where I would find people like me, be near or in a city, and where I would be intellectually stimulated and challenged. But there's always also the financials to consider. I didn't want to be in debt--and still don't--but almost every school I applied to was a private school. Given my family situation, I wasn't expecting much. So as the acceptances rolled in, all of that started to sink in. I got into some amazing schools I would have loved to attend, places that I had visited and could picture myself. There were schools with amazing International Relations/Development programs and beautiful campuses. There were schools that seemed to feel right. I got some scholarships and got into some really amazing honors programs. But it was all still so expensive. I was also accepted to the school/program I'm at now. It's a little complicated because it's an honors college within a much larger university system, but getting in also meant free tuition, personalized advising, an opportunities fund, two years of free dorming, a free laptop, and the ability to be in New York City. How much better could it get?

Well, it wasn't really what I wanted. I could go on, but I'm sure it's not that interesting and not the point of my note. Basically, after lots of tears and arguments and all that, I decided that I couldn't give up graduating debt free and being in NYC for undergrad.

I won't lie and say that I didn't think a lot about the "what ifs" my first semester. I still think about it from time to time, but I also couldn't imagine transferring. Could I have better professors and maybe be more challenged in my classes? Perhaps. But it's college. I'm still being challenged and still have lots to do, but at least I don't have to think about the cost on top of that. I have had so many intellectual discussions and debates with my fellow honors students (and some with others too), and I'm sure it'd be the same in any other institution because we were all accepted to amazing places and just couldn't afford it. I don't know how my opportunities would change if I were at a different university and of course there's A LOT I would change about my school. But I've had some great opportunities too, and I've interacted with such diverse people. I'm in class with so many different people, much more diverse than I'd probably see in most of the other schools I got into, not just in ethnicity but socioeconomic class, experiences, and more. I've gotten to see Broadway shows and dance performances. I've been able to explore the city and find cute and/or hip cafes. I've been able to go to some of the best museums in the world. I've been able to sit and read or study or eat lunch in Central Park. I've been able to go to a bunch of bookish events. I've had my artwork shown in a museum. And so much more.

But above all, I have the most amazing friends and support group. For me, it was the community and the people that were most important to me when looking at a school (after taking out cost). Like I said, I wasn't happy in middle/high school, and all I wanted was the support group and friends I now have. I would not give that up for anything.

So what's the point of all of this? I know it's hard right now. I know those rejections and waitlists can be heartbreaking (I was waitlisted by my top two schools and received a handful of rejections). I know it seems like college is so close yet still so far. I know that anxiety you're feeling. I know how torn and lost you might feel. But I can also tell you that you'll end up somewhere amazing. Every place has its pros and cons, and it's up to you to make the most of it and to decide if it's right for you. Figure out what you want most from college. Remember that worst comes to worst, you can always transfer. Yet regardless of where you are, you will meet incredible people, and you can get almost anywhere if you're determined. You will make great memories and bond with the most unexpected of people. What you're learning probably won't be very different no matter where you go, though professors probably will be. Everyone still holds a little doubt and maybe some of those "what ifs," but you'll find your place.

Everyone's in it together, freaking out about the future and the next exam and the next day and the next meal. Everyone's on the same boat, no matter which school they're at. Experiences can vary, but find what makes you happy. You can do it. I believe in you. You will get to the other side. A year from now, you'll hopefully be somewhere that makes you happy and challenges you, surrounded by people you love and who love you. There's still so much more that can happen, and you've still got so much ahead, but it's also exciting and wonderful. Take a deep breath and live in the moment. Wherever you are next year, don't forget that you're amazing and that it will all be okay in the end.

I wish you the best of luck with college decisions and hope you'll find your place too. And if you ever want to talk to someone, let me know. Don't be afraid to be a little afraid, but also don't be afraid to take that leap.

Much love,

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  1. I love this post. So much.

    I was in this boat up until a few weeks ago, stressing out over which school to attend and weighing cost/benefit ratios. I got into my dream school (Emerson College) in December, and I was ecstatic because the school is PERFECT for me in every way except cost. I didn't care much about surrounding myself with ~intellectual~ classmates, but Emerson students all seem so passionate about what they do, which is exactly the kind of person I am and want to be around. The school offers a Writing, Literature, and Publishing major. I toured the campus in June and I couldn't stop smiling the whole time.

    But sadly, like you, I didn't expect to get very good need-based financial aid. I was right, and the merit-based scholarships still left me with a significant bill to pay. the more I thought about it, the more I decided I couldn't bring myself to go there.

    Now I've committed to attending my in-state option (Indiana University's downtown Indianapolis campus - it's not NYC, but it's a big enough city that I'll be happy there for a few years), which will be close to free. It's SO HARD to let go of a school that's been my dream since sophomore year, and I'm sure I'll still worry about whether or not I made the right choice long into my college years. I may regret my choice when I'm searching for a job and wishing I had more connections. But I'm certain I'll thank myself for graduating debt-free when I'm planning an international trip or paying NYC rent. ;)

    Mostly, I think your college experience is what you make of it. There are smart and kind people at every school - you just have to find them. There are engaging things to do on or near every campus (although there's definitely more in the city, which is why I didn't apply anywhere not in an urban area!). I would have LOVED Boston and Emerson College - I know I would have - but Indianapolis has so much to offer as well.

    I'm just relieved to have made my choice, and now I'm living vicariously through people like Grace and Willa - I'm joining you in wishing all high school seniors the absolute best!

    1. Thanks, Em! Congrats on Indiana University! I wish you the best of luck, and yeah, you're right. It's about what you make of it and putting yourself out there. You're bound to find friends as long as you go in with openness, you'll find your place. <3


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