I never wanted to go to a state school. That was my big thing when applying to colleges my senior year of high school. I made it clear to my friends and to my parents that I’d apply to the big, inexpensive state schools as a purely “worst comes to worst” back up plan, but did I ever stop to consider the fact that I might go? Surely I wouldn’t need to. I had applied to enough schools that I was positive that at least one school fitting my criteria of “small liberal arts college in the middle of nowhere” would accept me with a good financial aid package. I grew up in an urban area so I was desperate to leave to some magical paradise of picture-perfect grassy lawns and beautiful, old buildings. So when I was accepted to one of these straight-out-of-a-brochure colleges with a sizable financial aid package, I thought I had finally found my way out.
I’m a big fan of keeping lists. Whether they’re shopping lists that I type out on my laptop, or mental lists of any old random thing, they tend to keep me organized so I’m a fan. One of the mental lists I have running is called “Things I Hate More Than Anything” (another popular one is called “Dumbest Ideas I’ve Ever Had”– It’s probably my longest list). Coming in at number five on my wonderful list of “Things I Hate More Than Anything” is financial aid, and here’s why. About a week before I was set to graduate from high school, I received word that I was to receive about a third of the financial aid I was originally expecting. Naturally, being a girl who loves a good panic, I flipped out, and spent a good few days bawling in between phone calls with indifferent financial aid advisers. When it was all said and done, I was told that my only option was to go to a state school as a commuter. My worst case scenario had become my reality and there was nothing I could do about it.
Looking back on that time more than two years later, all I can say is– Jesus Christ, could I have been anymore fucking dramatic?
I mean, don’t get me wrong- if I had started college with the same attitude I had the day I found out I’d be going to my safety school, I probably would have had, and maybe still be having a shit time. But somewhere between that day and my first day of class, and the following two years, I learned a few things that turned my worst case scenario into the happiest years of my life.
1. You are not “above” any college, nor do you need to go to a certain school to be successful. Some of the smartest, most talented, and most successful people I know started out in community college or in a “bottom tier” school. We all have different journeys in life so just because yours doesn’t lead you where perceived success is supposed to follow, don’t let it affect your focus in achieving your goals. So whether you are headed to junior college or the Ivy League, own it. We all decide our path so the second you stop letting your own stigma about your school limit you, there’s no telling what you can do.
2. Find your community. In college, there are literally organizations filled with people who love the same things you do. Go out and find them! There’s a reason they say you meet your true friends in college.
3. Life is full of blessings in disguise. I think this goes without saying.
So to my fellow safety schoolers, enjoy this time. You’ve probably heard that college is the best years of your life all too often, but that’s only because 3 out of 4 times it’s absolutely true. So here is to the next four years of your life. You’ll do great.