This Is How You Learn What Matters Most When Applying To College

No thanks, Harvard.

Throughout the stressful/horrible/exciting/scary college application process, I have learned so many things. The majority of your life will be about choices. No, not your order from Chipotle. You have to choose what you want to do for the rest of your life. You have to choose where you’re going to learn about it. And then you have to find a place to get your experience. Then, repeat that process as needed.

The pressure feels like all too much for a 17-year old, with very little life experience and 4,000+ colleges in the US to choose from.

One thing that I’ve realized (and am still trying to remind myself) is that grades in high school are not everything. As an “average” student earning a 3.5 grade point average, I used to beat myself up for not having a 4.0. My best friends, all National Honor Society students, have AP/Honors courses flooding their transcripts. Here’s the thing, though: just because I’m not like them, doesn’t mean I’m not smart.

From the minute I started thinking about college, I was given advice left and right, whether I asked for it or not. And every adult’s two-cents consisted of the same thing: Go to the best college you can.

A horribly common misconception is that schools with low acceptance rates are “the best”. Just because not many people can go there, doesn’t mean you have to. There is so much more to knowledge than memorization and regurgitation (which is what high school basically is). College is supposed to enhance your knowledge and prepare you for the next phase of your life.

As a high school senior, I may be one of the few that doesn’t have a “reach” school. At first, I had quite a few. I thought that future employers would want to see a diploma from a more selective school, rather than one from a place where I would truly thrive.

When I went for my interview at one of these schools, I was immediately told to retake my standardized tests, which makes sense. If I wanted to go there on scholarship, I’d need to fit the standards from which they judge their applicants. And I could have. I’m by no means lazy or one to just coast. But I had taken tutoring and practiced for what seemed like forever for the SATs and ACTs. My scores reflect my knowledge of the subject matter. Anyone can get a 2000 if they put countless hours and hundreds of dollars into it.

I’m going to attend a school that wants me as I am. I refuse to be stressed out because I’m barely passing classes. I don’t want to have to compete. I want to be able to be me, to feel at home, and to be calm. I want to feel like I’m thriving.

A study done by usnews.com states that only 0.4% of undergraduate students attend Ivy League schools. No disrespect intended, but there’s so much more out there. Why limit yourself?

For me, an Ivy League school wouldn’t be my place. I don’t have that cutthroat, competitive attitude one needs to attend a school like that. And I’m okay with that.

For some people, an Ivy League school is where they belong. And that’s amazing, you know? You do you. But I constantly get the feeling that people attend these prestigious schools just because they can, regardless of whether it’s right for them or not.

When I choose my college, I’m going to make sure it can present me with opportunity and surround me with people who want to see me succeed. It’s better to be in an environment in which you can stand out and feel confident, rather than a place where everyone’s applications look the same. If you love where you are, you’ll learn and be happier. Stress doesn’t cultivate learning. Comfort does. TC mark

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