“I do not want to get out of the car!”  I said to my mother after driving over an hour to visit the college that seemingly had everything I wanted. It offered a program I wanted to pursue, was the perfect distance from home, had a great surrounding town and more. But once I got there, it offered nothing I wanted or desired in a college. It was then that I realized maybe I was focusing on the wrong things when choosing the “right” college for me.

College Just Ahead Green Road Sign with Dramatic Clouds, Sun Rays and Sky.

When I started my college process, I was overly stressed. I didn’t know what my chances were to even be accepted to any schools because my grades were not the best. I did not want to take a SAT or ACT again and I didn’t want to go far from home. All of these stressors had me dreading my senior year of high school. But once I took the time to sit down and really figure out what I wanted to get out of my college experience the summer going into senior year, I felt confident in the process and more excited about continuing my education.

Building your Vision

Here are a few pieces of advice that may be useful when building your vision of your wants and needs in a college:

  1. Create a preliminary vision board. By making this board, you will be able to see first hand everything you think you want in a college or university. Go crazy! Do not set limits or boundaries when you make your preliminary board.
  2. Talk with your parents. Talking to your parents about your thoughts, fears, hopes and wants will allow you to express your vision clearly. By discussing it aloud, you are able to make distinct decisions with two people who are important influences on your life. Talking out your thought process with people that care very much about your education and wellbeing will definitely help you make the best decision for you.
  3. Ask yourself questions. How far from home do I want to be? Do I want to play a collegiate sport or join a particular club? Is going to a school with religious influences important to me? Do I want to be a small fish in a big sea of 10,000 undergraduates or will I be more comfortable in a smaller community? Would I thrive better with a larger or smaller class size? All of these important questions will help guide you to make a list of top college choices.
  4. Make that list! Write a list of all colleges/universities that fit your criteria. Make sure you include schools that you feel may be “reaches” and schools that fit all of your criteria but of which you are still unsure. You never know until you try and a visit to a school low on your list may completely change your mind.
  5. Visit. This is a very important step! Call each school you are interested in and make an appointment to visit. This is the only way to truly see if it is what you want and where you want to be for the next four years.

My process…

MichelleCINT.jpgI followed all five pieces of the above advice. After making my vision board and discussing it with my parents, the three of us came up with a list of questions that I really needed to ask myself. I figured out what I wanted: a small school (less than 6,000 undergraduates), a liberal arts college that had an abundance of options for majors and a college that had somewhat of a religious background.

Then I made my list: Marist College, St. Joseph’s University, Sacred Heart University, McGill University, Assumption College, and a couple more. Next up, I visited each school and was able to see what I liked and disliked. But when I pulled up to Marist College, I knew that was where I wanted to go. It was so beautiful; the buildings were new and it was right on the Hudson River. It felt like a strong and welcoming community, it was small in size and it had my major. It was everything I ever envisioned for myself and I knew it was absolutely the right school for me.

As I enter my senior year at Marist College, I constantly think back to this stressful and difficult time in high school. I feel proud that I made the right choice and I did not let anyone tell me I wouldn’t succeed with the decisions I made. I was a strong enough person to realize my potential…even on my hardest and darkest days.

Although this may be the hardest decision of your life so far, you will get through it and you’ll find the perfect school for you. Believe in your potential, believe in yourself and, most importantly, believe in your future.

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