Hey, psst. Look over your shoulder. Are your parents in the room? No? Good, because I’m about to tell you something that’s going to make them hate me forever:
The college admissions process isn’t actually that big a deal.
Gasp! Scandal! Pretty bold statement, right? Well, let me ease up on the click-baity, attention-grabbing angle a bit. Yes, deciding to attend college is a big, important life choice; yes, college opens up all sorts of new opportunities to which you might not otherwise have access; yes, some colleges offer better opportunities than others. But your life isn’t going to be over if you make the “wrong choice”: at the end of the day, your undergrad education is only four years of your life. (Unless it takes you longer, which is also cool!)
But I understand that you’re probably going to need a little more reassurance than that, so in this article I’ll be walking you through a bunch of Big College Fears and showing you why they’re not as scary as you think they are. So as rejections and acceptances start to roll in throughout the spring, try to remember: you’re going to be just fine.
What if I hate it?
College is supposed to be the best four years of your life, right? So what happens if you show up to school, settle into your classes, hit up all the parties—and realize you can’t stand the place? Friend, I feel you. I absolutely hated my school, but because of the specialized nature of my program, transferring would have meant adding another couple years to my graduation date. (And don’t even mention the price tag that would have come with it!) So I put my head down, focused on my work, and suffered through it. So far, I’m enjoying my twenties way more than I did college, and while I do still have a few friends from school, I met most of my closest pals way after graduating.
What if I only get into my safety school?
Okay, yeah, there’s a bit of a difference between Harvard and the local state university. But—first of all—your safety may be cheaper, and if you genuinely are overqualified for your school, you may be able to parlay that into some sweet scholarship opportunities. (Graduating with less student debt is nothing to sneeze at!) More importantly, though, you now have the opportunity to be a bigger fish in a smaller pond. Sure, you may be losing out on some of your dream school’s connections, but there’s probably a much lower barrier to entry for excellence at the school you got into, and if you take advantage of that, you’ll be able to parlay your actual experiences into connections just as good as the ones your snooty neighbor got for going to Princeton. (Plus, you’ll get bonus points for not seeming like a spoiled brat.)
What if I can’t afford to go to a “good” college?
Maybe your parents want you to go to community college and transfer after two years. Maybe you got a full ride to a school you can’t stand. Or maybe the city university is the only one that even sort of fits within your budget. Guess what: if that means you’re going to graduate with little to no debt, you’re already ahead of 93.7% of college grads who have massive loads of student loan debt that they don’t fully understand and may never be able to pay off. (I made up that statistic, but I stand by it.) Connections and fun parties are great, but in the end, it may be better to avoid racking up a lifetime’s worth of financial burdens before you’re even old enough to drink.
What if it takes me more than four years?
Let’s say you hated your school and decided to transfer, even though it meant a couple more years in undergrad. Or let’s say you had a medical emergency or family crisis, or you could only afford to go to school part-time. Guess what: once you have that degree, it isn’t going to matter how long you took to get it. These days, it’s pretty normal to not be getting started until way into your twenties—and many people start new careers even later than that. Plus, now that there are so many college graduates in the workforce, that additional work or life experience may be the thing that helps set you apart. See? It’s all good!