I remember well the days of Google searching dozens of schools and comparing their intermural sports and acceptance rates and suburban vs. urban environments on College Board. I remember taking all the quizzes and being told by the Internet that my ideal schools were in pits in the Midwest and would cost me approximately one billion dollars.
I also remember the gut-wrenching fear of choosing the wrong University, thinking doing so would be the worst decision of my life. My future will be ruined, I will have to transfer, I will waste all my money and my time and I will never have a successful career.
But here’s the truth: College can be great, it can be wonderful and thrilling and there are moments when it feels exactly like the movies, but it is not the only time of your life, and choosing the wrong school does not have to condemn you to misery.
I chose the wrong school, and I still came out the other side of those four years wiser, more mature, and armed with experiences that have equipped me to become a sort-of-grownup. Here are some reasons why, despite all you’ve been told, your life will not end if you choose the wrong school:
1. You will learn to be resourceful
It’s hard realizing you’ve placed your time and money at the wrong institution. You might get a little itchy and slightly queasy when you have the late night epiphany that you’d rather be anywhere else than where you are. But fighting against it, whether that’s transferring schools or making things work where you are, will make you a stronger and more resourceful person.
2. If you want to, you can transfer
It will be a pain in the ass and it might cost you some bucks, but there’s always a way to get out if that’s what is best for you. So while choosing the right place the first time around is simpler, there are always options.
3. You will want to get out of there and will very possibly graduate early because of that
When I realized my choice of schools was wrong and transferring was not an option, I shimmied my schedule around to graduate as fast as I could. I took 18 credits a quarter and a few online classes, which was a pain in the ass but worth it. I graduated two quarters early with a degree under my belt and a little less money out of my pocket.
4. You will get really good at dealing with people you don’t agree with
The University I chose just happened to be a small private Christian school filled with many over-opinionated and/or sheltered human beings. These human beings enjoy speaking out in class about pretty much everything and anything. Many of them like to strive for hypocritical perfection and some of them even think women are lesser than men! It’s really very fascinating. I could have let these people ruin my college experience, but instead I learned to if not work with them, at least tolerate them. I also developed a nice sense of humor about people who infuriate me. Ask anyone with a job and I guarantee they’ll agree this is a valuable lesson.
5. You will make friends who are similar to you
And of course, in all places there are fantastic people as well as the not so fantastic ones. The group of friends I made were a lot like me because many of them felt as out of place as I did. A special bond forms between people who live on the outskirts of things; just think of The Perks of Being a Wallflower.
6. You will make friends who are not similar to you
You will also become friends with people you would never even think of speaking to. My two best friends from college have different beliefs and experiences than me, and they are also two of my favorite people on the planet. At the beginning of my ohshitwhydidIpickthisschool phase, I never would have thought we had anything in common. But we do, and I’ve learned more than I could ever hope for from the fact that we are also very different.
7. You will create your own experiences
When I realized I wasn’t going to get what I wanted from my school, I decided to take matters into my own hands. When I felt unfulfilled by my classes, I found internships in the city where I made friends and gained connections. When I grew tired of my schools small newspaper, I wrote for online publications that pushed me. And when I became curious about the “typical” college experience, I joined another schools Ultimate Frisbee team where I had an enjoyable I’m drunk all the time while playing a recreational sport I know nothing about phase. Sure, a picturesque, walk in the park college experience might be great, but paving your own way and making your own experiences is a great thing can work out pretty well, and maybe even better.