At the end of my junior year, I had absolutely no idea where I wanted to go to college; all I had were a couple ideas. After having lived in the Midwest and attending a small school, I knew I wanted to move south to a large public university. But that was it.
That summer, my parents and I scheduled seven college visits to schools that fit that description. We made sure to research the programs of study and campus opportunities at each university and spent some time in the college towns to get a feel for the surrounding areas—after all, the college experience would be more than just my time studying.
Despite working hard to do that research, my college visits weren’t as successful as I’d hoped. Everyone said when I stepped onto the campus that was perfect for me, I’d know it. But while some colleges made me feel more comfortable than others, I just never had that “aha” moment where I knew I’d found my future home. I ended the summer before senior year feeling just as confused as when it began.
Most colleges opened their applications shortly after I returned home. I decided to apply to four—the University of Alabama, the University of Kentucky, Ole Miss, and the University of Missouri—and weigh my options as I waited to hear back. I thought a lot about the town each school was located in, the majors I wanted available to me (since I really wasn’t sure of the career path I wanted to pursue), and other on-campus opportunities like Greek life and study abroad programs.
Soon the acceptance letters began to arrive. By then, I had narrowed down my options to two schools that were almost identical in tuition, size, opportunities, and campus atmosphere: Alabama and Kentucky. Because of the similarities, I still couldn’t make a decision between those two. It took a lot more thinking and waiting.
Ultimately, my decision came down to cost and location. I received more scholarship money from the University of Alabama and decided that I would rather live further south than Kentucky. Before I committed, I made one final visit to Alabama just to be sure that I truly felt comfortable there. And that time, it really did feel like home.
No amount of questions I asked during a tour or students and professors I met on campus would have made the decision for me. Once I determined a few schools that offered the tools I needed to achieve my goals, the most important thing to me was the campus feel. I knew I couldn’t succeed somewhere I didn’t feel like I fit in.
Related: 4 Ways to Find Your College Fit
To anyone who’s weighing their options like I was: just relax! You may find that many colleges boast the same programs and similar opportunities. At that point, it’s important to find a place where you can feel comfortable fully immersing yourself and allow the rest to fall into place. In time, it will.
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