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College Countdown

Some advice for the class of 2014 (and beyond).

And if you find yourself at a school that just is not working out for you, you can totally transfer! People talk like this is impossible, but it is so not. It’s not impossible, even though people make it out to be. The transfer process, however, is tiring, since you’re essentially applying to college all over again and will need to compile recommendations, transcripts, write essays, and more—but it’s worth it if you know you’re in the wrong place.

How do you determine that? If you’ve just started your freshman year and you feel out of place, wait a while. Everybody feels displaced at first, but most people shake it off during that first year. Think about exactly why you want to transfer. Here’s Dylan:

I have so many friends who had a rough time their first semester and ended up really loving their school the following years. If you’re unhappy, how do you know whether to wait it out and hope for the best, or to take action and transfer? How I decided was by asking myself some questions: Does this environment support the kind of grown-up I want to become? Does the career I’m studying for at this school match what I have in mind for my dream life? Have I tried to get involved and connect with other students through clubs, classes, and social outings, as much as I can? In other words, have I really tried here, or did I just dismiss it too quickly because my parents made me go here/it’s my safety choice/it’s not what I had in mind/life is hard? I felt like I tried very hard at my first school to relate to my fellow students socially (no luck), and tried to see myself graduating from there happy about my choice (nope). That’s how I decided to leave. It was that relentless pit in my stomach that was my intuition telling me, plus these questions guiding me. It’s a really hard decision to make, and it really takes a lot of work—if that’s worth it to you, talk one-on-one with the admissions counselors at your desired school and see what it will take to make it happen.

Once you get to your new school, says Dylan, “Socially, you’ll be starting over. It was, of course, pretty lonely and very quiet my first semester at my transfer school. But in some ways, I loved being the new girl amongst seasoned, second-semester freshmen. People will be like, ‘Dang, who’s she?’ and holler at you for your company. Soak it up, it only lasts a few weeks.”

What should I even major in?

So, you’ve made it to college. Congrats! But, wait, what are you even studying here? Some schools require you to apply to a specific, specialized school within your college before you’re even accepted, but most students enter college undecided. Picking a major (assuming your college even has majors—many, like Hampshire, NYU’s Gallatin, and Eugene Lang, let you design your own ) is stressful; the pressure is on to choose something that (a) you’re interested in, (b) you have some aptitude in, (c) you want to spend money on learning about, and (d) will maybe possibly help you get some sort of job after you graduate. Which brings me to one of the most important questions in the major-picking game: Should you pursue your dreams or settle for a practical, job-guaranteeing plan of study?

“Taking the middle ground between ‘fun’ and ‘practical’ is fine,” says Rachael, “but don’t major in something you hate just because it’s practical.” You don’t want to pick a major that is supposed to guarantee you a lucrative job and then realize three years in that you hate all your classes. If your passion happens to be in a lucrative field, great. If not, go for what you love and don’t listen to the losers who tell you your degree will be “useless.” “I think any talk of ‘useless degrees’ is nonsense. I think you SHOULD follow your dreams,” says Gabby. “But you can still think practically about them.” For example, Gabby’s dream job is writing for television, but she’s majoring in English because writing well is a skill that could help in her a multitude of jobs, including her dream job.

Another thing that people stress but college kids still FUHREAK out over is that there’s like a 99.9% your major will change. Rachael entered college majoring in marine biology, but then she realized she just wasn’t super good at science, so she switched to creative writing. Krista went in thinking she was going to major in theater, but later opted for English. And don’t worry if you don’t know what you want to study, seriously. I feel like there’s this pressure to know WHAT YOU WANT TO BE (as if your college major somehow defines who you are as a person) by your freshman year of high school, and it’s ridiculous. Once you get out of school that whole “uh, what’s your major” conversation you’re going to have 600x in school ceases to exist in adult world, thank goddess!

Whether college is worth the money, time, sweat and tears is entirely up to you. College might seem like it’s the deciding factor for the whole REST OF YOUR LIFE, but in the big-ass timeline of your existence, it’s just gonna be a li’l four years. What you make of them is up to you—make sure you’re making informed decisions based on what you really want, but no matter what you decide, remember that you can always change your mind, because it’s your life we’re talking about here. Good luck, li’l Rooks—let us know if you have any questions! ♦

* Note to non-American readers: In the U.S. a community college is a two-year institution that gets funding from the government and is therefore much cheaper than a private, four-year school. Community colleges are often used as steppingstones to four-year colleges, or as places to get training for a specific job, like nursing, engineering, or paralegal work.

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59 Comments

  • AngstyTheBrave August 19th, 2013 11:47 PM

    Ah I am going to be a prick and brag, but I am SO glad I figured out what I wanted to do when I was young (quite young considering the first 13 years of my life I changed ideal careers basically every week). And I’m not going to college. I will probably be broke for the next 5-10 years of my life, if not later, but it is nice to have some stability when everything else is all… teenagery, unstable.

  • mollyjane August 20th, 2013 12:07 AM

    It would be neat for rookie to do an article on only gap years. I’m taking one right now, and even tavi has said she is considering it! In my experience there are a lot of misconceptions that american teens have about taking breaks and it’d be rad to show rookie readers all the different options that are out there – they can become the most intelligent and interesting versions of themselves before college too!

    • ThePuNkR0ckeR August 20th, 2013 12:05 PM

      I’m doing a gap year too!!!

      • mollyjane August 20th, 2013 9:45 PM

        gap-year rookies unite!!

    • GaLing August 20th, 2013 9:36 PM

      +1 for a gap year here!

    • jenaimarley August 20th, 2013 11:16 PM

      hip hip hooray for gap year rookies!

    • letterG August 21st, 2013 12:32 AM

      Ok, so I’ve been considering doing a gap year, but I cant find that much info on them.
      If you do a gap year, do you still have the same scholarship opportunities as students who are going into college straight from high school? Because I really was worried and wanted to know more about that :<

      • jenaimarley August 21st, 2013 11:52 PM

        You’d have to check with the specific school but a lot of schools allow you to apply and then defer for a year, in which case need-based financial aid would be recalculated based on your family’s income (as it would even if you were attending that year and not deferring). For merit scholarships and the like, it would really depend. You’d probably still be eligible for a lot of them, but you might have to reapply for them if you decide to take a year off…

  • kathryn-s August 20th, 2013 12:07 AM

    I’m so grateful for this article!!! I’m in the class of 2014 and I’m SOOOO stressed about where I’m going to go and what I’m going to major in.

    I live in a small town in MN and want to go somewhere in/near a bigger city, but don’t know if that means I want to go to school in the Twin Cities (close to home) or on one of the coasts. Virtually all of the schools I’ve been looking at (online) are on the east coast, but one of the things I’m interested in is film, which leads me to believe that I should possibly go somewhere near LA??

    I also feel like I’m not “allowed” to say I want to do something with writing or film (the two main things I’ve thought about) since I haven’t really had much real experience in these fields yet and I feel like I should have already written a novel or something by this point if I’m serious enough to major in it.

    FUTURE IS SCARY.

    (goldengrrrls.blogspot.com)

    • eremiomania August 20th, 2013 1:43 AM

      Oh man, the future is SO scary! I love film as well, my dream job is to be a director/screenwriter but I get stressed really easily and have no idea if I could actually do it! I’m thinking maybe study editing (I’m really good at it) or advertising/graphic design, something that would be really interesting and not as repetitive as editing. Anyway, no one really needs a degree to make a movie, Wes Anderson majored in psychology and Quentin Tarantino never even graduated high school!
      I guess what I’m trying to say is I feel you but it’s totally okay to be scared because, frankly, who isn’t?

  • Adrienne August 20th, 2013 12:12 AM

    Thank you for this article! I’m going to be an incoming senior and while I’m glad it’ll be my last year of high school, I’m super stressed about college and college apps. Every time I talk to adults (or even teens) they always ask “Do you know where you want to go to college? Do you want to stay in-state? What about your major?” And my answer is always “I don’t know” and “I have no idea.” I’m not even that mad at them for asking; I’m more frustrated at myself for not knowing what I want to do!

    Where I live (a mostly-white suburban town), there is A LOT of pressure and competition to get into a good college… it just stresses me out even more. I just hope everything works out lol.

  • maddyr August 20th, 2013 12:20 AM

    CONSIDER WOMEN’S COLLEGES! They are the best.

  • Tyknos93 August 20th, 2013 12:26 AM

    A gap year was wonderful for me. I got to experience a year of life as an “adult” and it made it made me take my education that much more serious. I agree it’s not for everyone, but ladies (and gents) it really is YOUR decision. Whatever you choose will not be easy you really have to work hard at it. Good luck to those still figuring it out and those heading back to school this year!

    http://blazoningpens.blogspot.com/

  • lacecat August 20th, 2013 1:17 AM

    HAZEL I LOVE YOU. okay I just have to get that out. As someone who is in the class of 2014 in high school, I’m seriously dreading college. In middle school and the first two years of my high school life I thought it is going to be a cakewalk BUT OBVIOUSLY IT’S NOT. And what makes it harder is that I have immigrant parents who do not understand the American educational system. It’s okay for them, but it’s sadly what hindered my older brother from getting into a school he wants. But it’s all swell now because he is in college, saves money because it’s an hour away so he lives at home, and he knew his major since he was 6. (He wants to become a doctor, so he’s taking biology) But unlike my brother, I’m not as smart and hopefully even with some monetary restraints aka college apps and such I can get into college. I decided not to go to community college because I feel like it’s going to be a waste of time for me, because I’m 90% sure on my major and want a college experience AND to meet new people and learn. I’m not taking a year off because I have no job and I have no idea what I will do with a year off. But to all Rooks: whatever you do with your life is up to you! Every decision ALWAYS has a negative and a positive! xo

  • AICUL August 20th, 2013 1:56 AM

    I’m going to a community college partially to save money but mostly because even though I’m 18, I have NO IDEA WHERE I WANT TO GO. I’m using the next two years to get my general education and figure out what I wanna do/where I wanna go. Thank you so much for the link to the College Board. It looks super helpful. :)

  • Jessica Mei August 20th, 2013 2:15 AM

    I’m only class of 2016, but college stresses me out a lot. The future in general, does. But you know what? I’m gonna be okay. Thanks, Hazel – your writing soothes me like lavender sugar cookies and nice good talk with someone smart but also has been where I am right now, who I can trust.

    Again and again, Rookie reminds me that there are people just like me all over the place, who share my dreams/fears/hopes/concerns – or maybe not! But we can get along. Love peace and happiness etc etc etc. Insert a sparkly cupcake. A unicorn. Blah.

    Anyway, forrealz – this site is awesome and I’m really, really glad it exists. BRB y’all, I gotta send in this comment and then hug my computer monitor in thanks for letting me peruse this fantastic webzine.

  • glitter riot August 20th, 2013 2:22 AM

    You have no idea how much I needed this right now! I’m leaving for my first year of university in 5 days and i’m freaking out because when I applied to the university, it was 11th grade, I had no friends and I had a horrible relationship with my family so the first thing I thought of was just to get as far away as possible from my high school and my town. Now that i’ve made friends and sort of rekindled ties with my family i’m really upset that i’m going so far away, i’m leaving the province! And i’ve never even visited the school i’ve been accepted to, so i’m taking a major gamble on if I even like it or not. It’s going to be a lot harder to change schools and transfer since it’s so far away, but i’m definitely going to take your advice on transferring if I do dislike it, because the last four years of high school were hell because I didn’t think I was able to transfer. It turns out that high school could have been bearable if only I wasn’t going to the preppiest and richest Catholic high school in my town, akin to the worst of high school stereotypes. I’m scared that my university experience will be horrible because of a bad choice in schools, and that socially it will be horrible for me.

  • xopaulxoxx August 20th, 2013 2:30 AM

    Thank you Rookie for such an amazing article!
    I am from Hong Kong and my dream is to pursue a career as an actress. Performing Arts Schools are limited in HK (actually only one..or two) Therefore I aim to study aboard, (to be specific..Birmingham School of Acting!) However I’m worried about the tuition fee as an international student and the expenses.. Should I stay in HK or go aboard? (let’s just assume I could get into such a good school in Birmingham ..lol)

    • Special_Snowflake August 20th, 2013 4:16 AM

      Hi Lorraine!
      I’m not from HK but my parents stay here and I’m off to uni in the US tomorrow! I say follow your dreams and try for the UK!
      xoxo

  • Audrey07 August 20th, 2013 2:33 AM

    I’m someone who’s been through the whole gauntlet, including going to college right after high school, transferring to two different universities, and then finally deciding to leave school. (I was studying fashion btw.) I’m now looking for internships and seeing what happens next.

    If you’re interested in pursuing an arts/fashion career, I would seriously think about whether a degree is what you actually want to do or whether you’re being pressured into it/you think it’ll guarantee you a job (it won’t trust me).

    There are a lot of people working in the fashion industry who worked their way up and didn’t even finish their degree or even started school. If you do choose this way though, it does help to have some sort of backing for rent/living expenses as you’ll probably be working your way up in an expensive city.

    I actually wish I had taken a year off after high school to figure out what I wanted to do rather than just rushing into. It’s perfectly fine to take a gap year and figure things out.

  • rubypowers August 20th, 2013 2:44 AM

    I’ve actually decided to go to CC! Which many look at as “being a terrible thing” but I’m actually quite excited. I’ll be saving up money and I REALLY want to get involved in the film/television industry, and I’m in a perfect location to do so. Heck, you don’t even really need a college degree to be involved in production and post-production. I stressed myself out about college for way too long and now that it’s my senior year, I’m stress free!

  • Camillekit August 20th, 2013 2:44 AM

    I’m about to start my gap year, and I couldn’t be happier. I was accepted into my dream school, and I decided to deffer for a year. They are saving my spot, and I am taking the year to work, intern, travel, and just relax and have fun and hang out. I’ve heard such great things about taking a year off, and my future college really recommends it. I think it would be wonderful for Rookie to have an article dedicated to gap years, too!

    • jenaimarley August 20th, 2013 9:40 PM

      Same here!!! :) <3

      I am going abroad to China on a gap year exchange this year and have to make a shout out to U.S. State department funded exchange programs (that go from the U.S. abroad and vice versa) because studying abroad can be hella expensive and they cover everything!!!
      Anyone interested in studying abroad cost free should check these out:
      http://exchanges.state.gov/

      • Camillekit August 21st, 2013 3:02 PM

        That’s amazing! I hope you have a wonderful experience! I’ll be traveling too, and doing service work. I’m looking forward to living in the moment and really taking my gap year, rather than focusing on planning every detail out, as well. I want it to be worthwhile, while simultaneously relaxing and just plain fun, before i go to Harvard next fall. I wish you the best!!

        • jenaimarley August 21st, 2013 11:48 PM

          Yeah, the NSLI-Y program is pretty structured and intense… I really want to become fluent in Mandarin though, so I’m willing to take it on before heading to Stanford in fall 2014.
          Living in the moment and going with the flow sounds really wonderful though! Where would you like to travel? Also congrats on Harvard!
          All the best to you as well! :D

  • taste test August 20th, 2013 2:53 AM

    my first year of college was kinda miserable. I didn’t connect with anyone my first semester and my classes were so hard second semester that I spent most of my time in the fetal position on my bed surrounded by textbooks. getting out and socializing is an awesome idea, but you need the fucking time for it first. anyway, this semester my class schedule should be easier and I’m going to try to give it my all and make this semester better. I’m thinking of transferring, but I need to make sure it’s not just me first, because it still feels like I should fit in somewhere at this school. anyway, I’m really nervous because I feel like it’s a huge amount of pressure- like telling myself “this semester has to be AWESOME or I have to leave” is just going to stress me out about everything and make it awful. ugh. anyone have any tips?

    http://xyzzyzzyzx.blogspot.com

  • avisanti August 20th, 2013 5:47 AM

    Hello, Rookie! I’m in my third year in university and I’m from the Philippines. I just want to share that in my country, it’s not a question of whether you want to go to college or not. If you have the capacity to go (and by that I mean if you have the money), you SHOULD go. There are no other options. We have a 10-year pre-university cycle instead of the usual 12 so no one takes high school graduates seriously here. Even grocery store clerks are required to be at least in college level so what jobs are left for HS graduates? Practically zero.

    A gap year or an internship maybe an option for you, but in our case it’s college or flipping burgers in a fastfood chain. Seriously. Even our college graduates end up as call center agents or domestic helpers abroad so nope, we can’t really afford to skip college just because we don’t feel like going to college.

  • peiyuu August 20th, 2013 5:56 AM

    i wish i had seen this article last year, before i started college – or even better, the year before that, when i was applying! then again, i was a stellar student back then and probably would have been too arrogant to really take in this article.

    i had a pretty disastrous first year at university, but after withdrawing for a quarter and using that time and summer break to think about what i really want, i realized i hated my major. in fact, i just finalized my change in majors today! i’m giving my university another try this year. hopefully it’ll go a bit smoother the second time around.

  • rahima August 20th, 2013 7:01 AM

    this article is so significant. i’m batch 2014 also and i must say, picking a major is really difficult. people’s comments about the subjects i’m taking are really pulling me down. some think i can’t handle it and others say i won’t get a good job but after reading this article, i don’t care about what they think anymore. my dream job is to work as a humanitarian and who knows, maybe i’ll get to meet Malala and if that day comes, i’ll take a selfie with her and send it to everyone who laughed at my dreams. or just make it my profile picture. for the rest of my life.

  • aworkingrachel August 20th, 2013 9:18 AM

    Great article! I appreciate the evenhanded look at different college options.

    If you’re thinking college might not be the right place for you right now, check out the book Better than College by Blake Boles. http://www.better-than-college.com/

  • padlizsan August 20th, 2013 11:16 AM

    A word in favor of a school’s tours: seeing how each school presented themselves/wanted to present themselves to prospective students helped me understand them better. The way the administrative side of the school thinks, while less present than interactions with other students and the faculty, makes a difference in the whole experience, and getting a feel for that can be super informative.

    Also, the best advice I got about choosing a college was a simple question: where do you want to wake up for the next four years?

  • janakathryn August 20th, 2013 11:16 AM

    Even though I was so excited about finding my dream school with my dream major while college searching last month I was considering not going because I can’t afford college. I’ve thought about it and I think I rather be in debt for years but have an education and a job I love then have no debt but a job I’m forced to have because I don’t have an education.

  • soviet_kitsch August 20th, 2013 11:23 AM

    THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR PREFACING THIS WITH A REASON TO NOT GO TO COLLEGE. i’ve never liked school, i’m disabled, i have dr’s appointments yadda yadda yadda, and some of my family members are insistent that i go. i know precisely what i’m going to do with my life and college will only interfere with that. thanks rookie yet again for being the RADDEST EVER

  • rebeccap August 20th, 2013 11:37 AM

    As a working class student entering my last year of college I would like to dispel Suzy’s idea that need based financial aid is hard to come by. My entire education (beyond a few loans) was funded by need-based aid. I don’t know what the demographics of Rookie are, but I will admit it is harder to get financial aid if you are middle class to upper middle class, which is what many of my friends are. I go to the University of Michigan and they covered the rest of my cost of attending after my federal loans/grants were factored in. I think so many working class students don’t even apply to schools like this when they see the cost and yet there is a lot of money at big schools with large endowments to give away for need-based grants.

    My own family was hesitant about me applying to U of M but I decided to try anyway and now I’m graduating with minimal debt because of how much need-based financial aid I received. I have met many other students at school who have also received a lot of need based aid. Again, this is because my family doesn’t make a lot of money. But I hope this will be encouraging to other lower middle class students out there. I think people like me are the ones who especially need to know this information and realize that there is funding out there for you. I think if someone wants to go to a certain school at all they should ignore the cost, apply, and wait for their financial aid package before deciding whether to go or not.

  • indigosunday August 20th, 2013 12:37 PM

    this is a question for Hazel: you said that you chose journalism, “though adults currently in this dwindling field are probably laughing at my choice”. do you regret your decision? and would it be hopeful for someone who is graduating in 2017 to set their heart on majoring in journalism?

  • spudzine August 20th, 2013 1:51 PM

    Dang, I was so freaking HAPPY when I saw this article last night, cuz I’ve been thinking of this very topic for a while now. I’m going to be a junior in high school, and college seems to keep getting closer and closer. The fact is, is that I dunno if I even want to go! It’s just that…my family couldn’t even afford the private high school I was attending, so I know that I probably won’t be able to go to a big university like I’ve always dreamed. And I know there are so many options for me to go, but college seems like crap to me now. It might just be a phase, but I really don’t want to go. I don’t want to waste money studying something that might not benefit me. I’m planning on visiting the campus of this art school I really want to attend, but I just might go to community.

    http://spudzine.tumblr.com/
    http://emotwins.tumblr.com/
    http://rockogirl.tumblr.com/

  • Sophie ❤ August 20th, 2013 2:43 PM

    Rookie; you come again, save the day, and obviously, this was super helpful!

    http://theneonpapaya.com

  • LaurenMichele August 20th, 2013 2:54 PM

    Despite the fact I’m starting college in two weeks, so the application process/picking a college is already done for me, I absolutely LOVED this article! I especially loved the “What should I even major in?” section, it made me feel assured to know that feeling uncertain is totally normal. I learn so much from Rookie articles, I’m so happy I found this place!

  • Fashion Babel August 20th, 2013 4:52 PM

    OH, COLLEGE.
    I have year left until leaving high school, and I’m pretty much excited now already.
    I’ve always wanted to go to college, last year I was all stressed out and kept convincing myself that after I finish high school education, I’ll leave studying forever and always and travel the world and work whatever I want just to be happy and piss everyone.
    But I’ve realized recently that only person I would actually piss of is myself.
    I’ve always wanted to go to academy, be sort of wicked artist.
    Now I want to study forensics, be policewoman, archeologist, psychiatrist even more, psychologist, and to sugar it all up, I want to go to some acting academy that would actually realize me and my thoughts and wishes and most of all, acting.
    I don’t even know, but good thing for now is that I have utter wish to go somewhere to college after senior year.

    I guess time will show me all the answers.

    Oh, and to be even more complicated, I’m going to fashion designer school.

    But, just relax.

    xo

    http://fashion-babel.blogspot.com

  • dreamygirl August 20th, 2013 5:11 PM

    thank goddess there isn’t a reason for me to worry about this, but also hurray for having this wonderful and helpful article when the time comes! love you hazel <333

  • Rue August 20th, 2013 5:12 PM

    First of all, I LOVE your articles on college. It’s still a ways away for me, but my sister’s been looking at colleges all summer, so my parents have also been questioning me extensively on which college I’d like to go to. Sometimes I feel trapped at home, and I always thought I’d want to go at least a few states away, but now I’m not so sure…
    Also, when I do pack for college, I’m probably going to forget a nail clipper. And a blowdryer. And, before now, I wasn’t even aware that I should bring my own fridge!!
    good to know, good to know.

  • pygmypuffs August 20th, 2013 5:22 PM

    I’m a year away from graduating college. I only went because the job I’m aiming for (elementary school librarian) requires a Master’s degree. I love my school, I love all the people I’ve met here, and I go to one of the top schools in my concentration.
    That being said, I don’t like college. If I could go back, I would not go to college. At LEAST take a gap year.

  • AnaRuiz August 20th, 2013 5:38 PM

    I love how honest, reallistic, and down to Earth this is. Finally an adult that won’t tell you that the world’s gonna end if you don’t go to college.

    http://anaruizwriting.blogspot.com

  • sumptionface August 20th, 2013 7:12 PM

    “my education is not something anyone can repossess from me.” I love this so much. And thank you Rookie for posting this now! This is just like all the thoughts my brain is swimming around in right now.
    http://loveyourfunnyface.blogspot.co.uk/

  • chisoxinct August 20th, 2013 9:07 PM

    Hazel, you mention that you transferred schools; would Rookie be able to run a piece on the transfer experience? I’m considering transferring in the spring (as a sophomore) and I am TERRIFIED of being on a new campus/not making friends/making a huge mistake. (I also have a bit of guilt, feeling weird that my first school didn’t work out when it does for usually everyone else.) It’d be great to hear someone else’s experience, especially with the usual Rookie spin.

  • SpencerBowie August 21st, 2013 1:39 AM

    LOVED the article. Listen, does anyone know anything or have an opinion on the AI Art Institutes? They are super affordable, but only one major schools. No minors even!

    What do y’all think? I’m wanting to study Fashion Design.

  • Maggie C August 21st, 2013 9:29 AM

    [LONGEST COMMENT pt 1]

    College senior here. This is solid advice, but it’s worth emphasizing that you don’t have to go to a private school to have a worthwhile college experience! When I was in high school, I’d gotten the impression that any clever, adventurous, intellectually ambitious person NEEDS to go to a prestigious university — if not the Ivy League or equivalent, then some special, selective liberal arts school in a distant part of the country. Places you see at the top of college listings, you know? These were the schools I saw smart people go to on TV — and more to the point, the schools my parents and teachers seemed to think I belonged at.

    I applied to three EXTREMELY selective schools and didn’t get into any. I ended up going to college in my hometown, at a small state university with an open admissions policy and a lot of part-time commuter students. I hate to admit this now, but at the time, it felt like a failure. All through high school, I’d thought of myself as too interesting and urbane for this dumb town, and I thought my “real life” would never start until I could get out of the small-town south.

    [to be continued]

    • Maggie C August 21st, 2013 9:30 AM

      I was wrong. Turns out SCORES of interesting, intelligent, brilliantly creative people were here all along — I just had to get past my silly, immature ideas about this part of the country. I’ve had great conversations with students and professors as bright as anyone anywhere and with some remarkable experiences to share. I’ve gotten to know a lot of older students, who tend to have interesting life stories, and that’s exposed me to some perspectives I might not have gotten in a place where everyone’s 18-22 and from a certain kind of high school situation. I became involved with the local poetry scene. I learned to play mandolin and performed in a band in my school’s bluegrass program, which certainly wouldn’t have happened anywhere else!

      And I did all that without amassing a crazy mountain of debt. I got into an honors program that paid my tuition in full (plus a books/housing stipend that actually put me a couple thousand dollars in the black at the start of every semester — woohoo!). But even if I hadn’t, a regular semester here costs ONE ELEVENTH of a regular semester at the uber-prestigious college I thought I’d end up at — and that’s not accounting for housing, higher cost of living in most parts of the country, etc….

      • Maggie C August 21st, 2013 9:31 AM

        With the money I saved (plus a generous but little-publicized scholarship from my school’s international studies department — thanks!) I was able to study abroad in the UK last semester. I had an amazing time studying manuscripts at the University of Manchester and traveling all over Europe. (And — get ready — the cost of that entire six-month, life-changing trip was still less than HALF the cost of a regular semester at some private schools. It boggles.)

        Truly, though, I’m really grateful I had the opportunity to realize how wrong I was to write off the part of the country I come from. I was a bright gal at 17 but I had some mistaken impressions, and I think that, if I’d left town with them, I might not have had the chance to see places like my hometown and people like my friends — my good friends! — the way I do now.

        If I could go back in time, this is what I’d tell myself (uh, about college admissions specifically):

        1. The prestigious universities you’ve heard of are fine places to go to college, but so are lots of other schools! You don’t have to go to Tippy-Top University to have a worthwhile life.
        2. Don’t write people or places off, geez!
        3. What feels like a mistake or even a failure can be the best thing that’s ever happened to you. Promise.

        SORRY FOR TALKING AND TALKING but I hope this is useful to someone! Best love and luck to everybody.

        xo, maggie

        • blamethesun August 24th, 2013 11:08 AM

          Wow this has been incredibly reassuring. THANK YOU SO MUCH. I’m going into my junior year of high school and it’s crunch time right now with college decisions. I’ve been stuck in the mindset that I HAVE to go to a prestigious university or else I won’t be taken seriously for such a long time now and your words have calmed me down significantly. I feel less self-conscious about the college I’ll end up in and more aware of the actual experiences I’ll have and what I’ll ultimately get out of it all. Again, thanks!!

  • Nadifa August 21st, 2013 2:30 PM

    Thanks Rookie for this article. I’ll now forward the link to my friends!

  • Nadifa August 21st, 2013 2:37 PM

    My father really support me to go for Industrial Tech. and I too wanna get that major. But at the same time, I don’t really do a great job on science in high school, my math is a major problem as well.
    Personally, I love learning English very much, and I guess the perfect major for it is literature, international relation, and so on. Again, I consider about what my parents said, “it’s not going to get you anywhere”. And part of me believe in those words.
    So how do you really decide and perfectly sure on what major you should take?

  • bedroomeyes August 21st, 2013 2:43 PM

    Sooo jealous of all you lucky folks taking a gap year! That’s what i wanted to do and my mom would not let me take a gap year under any circumstances. Not only am I stuck at a school i really don’t like but i felt so unprepared and just really felt i could have used a gap year for so much that would have made my first year go by much more smoothly (like learning how to drive, getting a job and saving up $$$, and just figuring life out ya know??)

  • Mira August 21st, 2013 6:59 PM

    Ugh! I’ve always wanted to do a gap year, but I didn’t know how to break it to my mom and she basically forced me to go to college right away because it’s kind of embarrassing here from where i’m from, if you don’t go to college after high school.
    I am currently studying at the school that I didn’t wanna go in the first place, just because my older sister is studying there so, my mom thinks I should go there too. Aaaand, what I REALLY want to study is BS International Studies Major in American Studies, but I ended up majoring in freaking Finance because they don’t have it in that school.
    Please do an article about gap year. That will really help.

  • KatGirl August 21st, 2013 10:02 PM

    I’m not college age yet, but this will be useful in a few years <3
    http://www.kawaiiunicornsandsparkleponies.wordpress.com

  • ParkerBryn August 22nd, 2013 2:21 AM

    This was really reassuring to read. I dream about going to a school in Portland & majoring in Women’s Studies and minoring in Communications but everyone around me says I need to have it the other way around because my plan is “unreliable” and “impractical” but I think I’ll have a higher chance of being successful if I dedicate my major to what I’m passionate about. But sometimes it can be hard to differentiate my own voice from the nagging of those around me. This article made me feel like I do know what I’m doing and that I really should trust my gut. So thanks, Hazel. You’re awesome!

    sincerelyparkerbryn.tumblr.com

  • Jes August 22nd, 2013 5:25 PM

    I would definitely read way more articles on this if you wrote more :)

  • betty finn August 26th, 2013 6:07 AM

    I think another suggestion that people applying to college* should consider is “should I even go to school in my home country?” I’m American (but I’ve lived in a foreign country my whole life), and I have chosen to go to university in Scotland. The tuition is much less than liberal arts schools in the US, and a little less than going to a public school in your home state.

    In Scotland, the curriculum is a lot like US schools (4 years, class flexibility/room to explore in your first two years before locking into your major). England and Wales are a little more strict (3 years, and you only ever study what you applied to study).

    I applied to a bunch of schools in the US, but realized that my “place,” aka the school that spoke the most to me, was overseas. I’d highly recommend broadening your college search to outside your home country! Even if it’s Canada!

    *Note: this mostly applies to people in the US

  • barbroxursox September 1st, 2013 10:11 PM

    As a college freshman, I kind of needed this! I’m only a couple weeks into the school year, and in some areas I don’t feel like I’m fitting in. Actually my roommates are great, and I’ve made friends in some of my classes. But I feel like there is a whole social scene around here that I just don’t fit in to. Which is fine, because I don’t really want to be a part of it, but it’s a HUGE portion of the kids at my school.
    Also, I have something to say about choosing a major that’s your passion. I like science and social sciences (especially psychology <3), but I know there aren't many jobs available in that. So, I'm majoring in pharmacy. It's not 100% what I'm passionate about (chemistry isn't my favorite area of science, I love biology), but the jobs and pay are soooo much better than most other areas. I also figured, with the amount of money that I will hopefully be making, I'll be able to spend money on learning about psychology because I want to.

    http://lizard-onawindowpane.tumblr.com