It's the first week of May, which means that if you're a college-bound senior you've chosen your school by now.
The odds are high that you're going to a "safety" school, and the odds are very high you're not going to your "dream" school. That's very normal; it has a lot more to do with the economics and logistics of admissions than you as a person. Just ask yourself how many times you've heard some sad person say "my problems all began when I graduated from a university that wasn't my dream school." You're going to be fine.
But there's a way to make sure you're going to be better than fine, but great. And that's to remind yourself that whatever it is you were looking for is available where you're going.
When you strip away the names and specifics but instead focus on the qualities that you were looking for, you can almost certainly find those qualities at the school you're going to attend.
Prestige? Wherever you're going, they'll have a Dean's List, honor societies, and awards. Go for it.
Social connections? Unless you accidentally applied to a monastery instead of a university, there will be people who want to do fun things with other people. There will be clubs, there will be friendships, there will be parties. The people you bond with will go on to do interesting things after college, and some of those bonds will extend for years and decades after college.
Career Opportunities? Your school will have some version of a Career Services office. Start going to that office your first semester of college. Look for advice, internships, and opportunities. Go back to that office on a regular basis.
Leadership roles? If the school has more than a handful of people, then they need leaders. There are places for you to sharpen and show off your skills. You've probably heard a quotation from Shakespeare's Twelfth Night: "some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon 'em." If you're upset that you didn't get into your top-choice school, you may be feeling like you definitely weren't born great. But you can still achieve greatness, or maybe be lucky enough to have it thrust upon you. You've got this.
School spirit and community? So maybe you're not going to be cheering on your team with 30,000 or more other fans. But there will still be a team, and they still want your support, and they sell face paint at smaller schools, too.
Personal fulfillment? That happens independent of where you go to school. And 95% of the work is actively done by you, not something you receive from teachers or opportunities. This short-term disappointment may be exactly what your personal fulfillment needs.
A strong program in your major? The majority of college students change their major. And even if you don't, you're still going to be exposed to experts in your field, even if it's not a big-name program. You're going to be great.
A magical name that will automatically make people think you're smart and will make you happy just by being there? It doesn't work that way. It just doesn't.
Now that you've finished the application process, go back and spend a little time on the first steps of the process, this time specifically geared toward your future school. What kind of person are you? In what types of situations do you thrive, and in what types of situations do you want to thrive? What qualities are you looking for in a college? Taking some time on these things will get you focused on the right things, like your personal goals and not just your resume.
Thanks for reading! I had an almost identical post last May, and I'll probably repeat it every May for as long as anyone will listen. Please share this with someone who would like to read it. There are lots of ways to get regular updates from Apply with Sanity: like me on Facebook and Twitter, get the monthly newsletter, or connect on LinkedIn. Comments are welcomed.