In celebration of Independence Day, I would like to touch on utilizing your independence in your college search. If you have followed other pieces of advice I've given about the search process, you know that I think it is extremely important to involve others that know and care about you in your search process. Many times, though, there are parts of your day-to-day life that help you function that others may not be aware of. It is important to make sure you also address these aspects in your college search process.
Your own priorites are the most important
Oftentimes you will agree with those assisting your search process (guidance counselors, parents, friends, siblings, etc.) on the priorities that are important in making a college decision. There are some things, however, that you might care about that others assisting your process may not (or may not be aware of). These things are still important when you’re trying to choose the right fit. This is a time to assert your independence and make sure to investigate these factors as well.
Every year, usually right around new student orientation or move-in day, I work with students who are panicked because something incredibly important to their sense of security is lacking. This takes on a number of different forms:
- The student who wasn’t completely honest about his dorm preferences on his housing form because his parents were with him when he filled it out.
- The student who must keep a nightlight plugged in to sleep but doesn’t know how to articulate this to her new roommate.
- The student who lights candles for religious purposes but has just been told by the R.A. that candles, candle-warmers, and anything with a wick is prohibited in the dorms.
These examples are not just “one-off” situations that occur out of the blue. I’ve actually worked with numerous students for whom these specific issues came into play and I’ve seen many, many others. The truth is that a lot of these issues could be addressed before even arriving for the first day on campus if the students were forthright with their needs, questions, curiosities, or circumstances. It can be difficult to ask the right questions or broach awkward topics but, more often than not, the situation comes to light. Usually this happens in a less than desirable way when it’s not handled upfront.
What really matters to you?
Take time to consider the things you do in your everyday life that, if made unavailable, would increase your stress level. Whether others in your life are aware of the impact these things might have, it’s still important for you to investigate how such circumstances are dealt with on your campus of choice. Sometimes accommodations can’t be made. Sometimes there aren’t workarounds for important factors in students’ lives and that adjustment is an important part of college. However, you can save yourself a lot of stress and confusion if you find ways to reach out during your search process. A discreet e-mail or a phone call when others aren’t around can get you the answers you need and help you breathe a little bit easier about making that transition to college.