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The Importance of Independence in Your College Search

Parents and friends have a lot of opinions, but your own priorities are what matter in your college search. Here's why it's important to advocate for yourself.

In celebration of Independence Day, I'd like to touch upon utilizing your independence in the college search. If you've followed other pieces of advice I've given about the college search process, you know I think it's extremely important to involve others who know and care about you in the 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's important to make sure you also address these aspects in your college search process.

Your own priorities are most important

Oftentimes you'll agree with those assisting in your college search process (school counselors, parents, friends, siblings, etc.) on the priorities that are most important in making a final college decision. However, there are some things that you might care about that others may not (or may not be aware of). These things are still important when you’re trying to choose the right fit for you. And this is a time to assert your independence and make sure to investigate these factors as well.

Related: What Do You Want and Need in a College? 

Think ahead: What do you need?

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:

  • A 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.
  • A student who must keep a nightlight plugged in to sleep but doesn’t know how to articulate this to her new roommate.
  • A student who lights candles for religious purposes but has just been told by the RA 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 on campus if the students were forthright about their needs, questions, curiosities, or circumstances. It can be difficult to ask the right questions or broach awkward topics, but the situation eventually comes to light more often than not. Usually this happens in a less than desirable way when it’s not handled upfront.

Related: Embracing Your College Independence 

Your wants and needs matter

The lesson is, take time to consider the things you do in your everyday life that, if made unavailable, would increase your stress levels. Whether or not 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 going to 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 email 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. You just have to take that first step yourself.

Can't wait to assert your independence in college? Check out this list of Colleges for Independent/Mature Students

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About Jessee Sandlin

Jessee Sandlin is a marketing and communication specialist, as well as a former associate director of admission at a Christian college in Kentucky. Considered by many friends, family members, and coworkers alike as an insatiable investigator, Jessee has devoted his professional career (and much of his personal life) to furthering the availability of higher education choices to students.

When Jessee is not poring over trends in enrollment management, meeting with students considering their college options, or traveling to various conferences and college fairs, he is spending time with his lovely wife, Holly. They share numerous passions and might be found exploring new local restaurants, engaging in home improvement projects, or visiting with family and friends.


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