How To Choose The Perfect School; A Note to My College-Bound Baby Sister

The first thing you need to know is perhaps the most important idea you’ll take away from this entire letter, so pay careful attention to the following sentence:

There is no right or wrong decision.

I promise you. There is so much seemingly in stock to choosing “the right school” or “the best school,” but after my four years, and after hearing about my friends four or five or even six years, I don’t think perfect exists. People have been putting pressure on you, telling you that this decision will affect the rest of your life, and it will, but it won’t make or break you. Your life will be what you make of it, no matter your environment. The next couple years will be some of the craziest, but some of the best no matter which university you choose to attend, so please, please, please, don’t fret about choosing the “wrong school,” because I know you and I know that you will thrive wherever you go.

In the meantime, until you make that final (or at least year or semester long because you’re not locked in to it forever) decision, you’ll have to deal with people pestering you about where you’ve visited, where you’ve been accepted, and what they’re ultimately asking; where you’re going. It’s driving you up the wall isn’t it? I hate to break it to you, but this is only the first of many years to come in terms of these sorts of questions. Yes, believe it or not there will come a time when you will long for the simplicity of the college questions. Keep your head up through the monotony though; it’ll be over soon. Until then, here are a couple of things to consider while you’re muddling through your options:

Don’t let your friends influence your decision

Just because something is right for them, doesn’t mean it’s right for you. Just because you won’t be seeing a friend every day, doesn’t mean that you’ll never see them again. And honestly even if you do end up the same place, you still might not see them every day. Don’t worry about relationships falling apart because the beauty about communication in this day and age is that if you care, and if want to keep in touch, you will. Don’t let someone else’s decisions dictate your life.

Make a list of the things that matter

It sounds tedious but trust me; it helps. Make categories of what sorts of things are important to you: class sizes, programs offered, location, club options, food offered, general feel of the campus, weather, etc. etc., and then decide which of those are most important to you, giving them each a weighted score (10-programs offered. 9-whether or not there’s a Starbucks on campus. 8-good study abroad programs 7-quality of the rec center etc. etc.) then if a school has those things, give it the points, if it doesn’t, no points. If a school doesn’t have any points for the things that matter to you, take it off your list, even if it seems like it could still be a good option for some reason. You’ve got to narrow it down somehow. Have a couple items on your list that are non negotiable, and if a school doesn’t have it, don’t be afraid to cut it out of your options. You’ll have to do some research and some soul searching about what’s really important to you, but after you’ve take the time to do it, you’ll feel like your decision was well reasoned, and not just a spur of the moment decision.

Don’t make your choice based off your family’s wants

Listen to our advice, because I like to think that some of it’s good, but don’t let us push you a certain way. Having known you for your entire life, don’t dismiss suggestions until you’ve at least given them some thought, but after you’ve thought things through don’t be afraid to say, “It’s not for me.” Essentially what I’m getting at is don’t go to UW for Dad, go because YOU want to. And if you don’t want to, that’s great too; I promise he’ll still love you. Trust me, I know from personal experience.

Don’t worry if there’s no “golden moment”

For some reason we are lead to believe that there will be a magic moment when you step foot on the campus where you belong, that will assure you that you’re where you need to be. I think this moment might exist for some people, but for a great deal of us, it does not. AND THAT IS FINE! You know how many schools I toured and applied to (don’t pretend you didn’t love the Great California College Tour of 2010) and I did not once feel that I belonged on a single one of those campuses. They were all just nice, and that was an issue for me because I was waiting for some moment of peace, some feeling that I was exactly where I needed to be, and it never came while walking on campus, or opening acceptance letters. It came eventually though. Not until I neared the end of my first year, did I finally look around and feel like I was where I needed to be. The feeling will come; it just might not present itself when you feel like you need it. It will come when you actually need it. Please don’t feel as if you haven’t found your place because you haven’t experienced that golden ah ha moment; it doesn’t occur for everyone right away.

Have faith that you’ll be happy anywhere you go

No matter where you decide to take your next steps those who love you couldn’t be more delighted in who you are as a person and the choices you’ve made in your life. Take this decision seriously, but not too seriously. Take some deep breaths because you’ll be more than fine at whatever institution you decide to attend; you just have to trust that.

Keep makin’ us proud, kid.

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A Few Things I Learned in 2015

Keeping a blog isn’t exactly easy

Alright so I never thought it would be a walk in the park, but amongst school, guest writing for another blog, and general senior year shenanigans, writing for myself was pushed to the very bottom of my priorities. And I mean technically last year the goal was to start the blog, so really when you get down to it, mission accomplished… sort of. This year the goal will be to actually keep up with it. Or at least get past February.

Your 20’s are kind of the best

The best way I can think of to describe life in your twenties is positively overwhelming. The possibilities of doing and seeing and experiencing are practically endless, which is wonderful, but can also be slightly intimidating. These years are your chance to explore whoever you want to be with minimal judgment or attachment to responsibilities. Want to go to college? Good for you! Want to spend the next three months backpacking across Europe? That will be incredible! Want to pack up and move someplace you’ve never been? Why not?! You aren’t expected to have it all put together perfectly after twenty-some years of life, which gives you a little wiggle room to have some fun before you settle down to figure the rest out.

Your 20’s are also kind of the worst

Once again, positively overwhelming. One of the most difficult things I’ve struggled with this year is that while other people don’t expect you to have things figured out, you expect yourself to have them figured out. I’ll look at my friends who are living at home and working jobs they by no means want to make a career of, but believe that they are doing great and wonderful things. Then I’ll look at myself doing the same thing and see it as failure. Why is that? I think we tend to look at each other and assume everyone else has it all together, when really no one does. The notion of being able to do just about anything is really exciting, but at the same time, I’ve mostly found it makes me want to hide under the covers while someone figures it out for me. What I’ve learned about this positively overwhelming time is that you can take positive in the context of itself, as optimistic or hopeful, or you can pair it directly with its following adjective to make it increasingly negative. It all depends on your perspective.

School is great

Now that I’ve graduated I’ll go ahead and say it loudly and I’ll say it proudly: I loved school. While most walked through the halls counting down the days till graduation, I dreaded its approach. Not because I feared the unknown that lay beyond, but because at the end of the day, I just really like learning. I liked studying, I liked the structure, I liked that there were certain expectations held of you and when you met those expectations you knew it. I know these are pretty much the main reasons people don’t like school, but now that I’m out in ‘the real world’ it’d be nice if my main concern was finishing the reading on time. Also another positive thing about school: forced social interaction with other humans your age. Existing in an environment where you’re constantly meeting new people with a variety of interests, sharing new ideas and different opinions was something I never realized I was taking for granted.

Saying you don’t care what other people think is a lot easier than actually not caring what other people think

I think I’ve known this one for a while, but it really hit me hard in good ol’ 2015. Having graduated with two degrees in psychology and creative writing, I’ve become a professional of smiling politely through the “so you’re planning on working at Starbucks then?” jokes. On that note, what would be so wrong with that? But at the end of the day it still feels like another jab at whatever potential I may have for a future career. It’s easy to tell yourself that you don’t care what those naysayers think, and it’s not their life and they don’t understand all the good that came from the steps you took to get where you are, but if I’m being honest with myself, it’s still hard to handle. The same thing goes for physical appearance, personal mannerisms, or trains of thought. Throughout your entire life you’re taught that what others think doesn’t matter, and I think there are a lot of people out there who have actually adhered to that and can think that way, but the majority of us can’t help but let the opinions of others weigh us down. We are continuously told not to care, but then fed so much to the contrary through societal standards perpetuated by social media, that we just can’t help ourselves. I’ve learned that it’s not realistic for me personally to completely dismiss what others think, but I can use those judgments as motivation to push myself to be the best version of myself that I know I can be.

Pancakes are probably my favorite food

This year I truly embraced my love for breakfast foods. Just thought it was worth mentioning.

Don’t miss out on concerts you want to attend

I realized this year that my biggest regrets in the life I’ve led so far have been not making the time to go to concerts I’ve wanted to attend. While I was not graced with any sort of musical talents myself, I have a great appreciation for song. Being able to see and hear an artist’s passion for what they’re doing brings their work to a different level of life. And I cannot deny that there’s something beautiful about the way you’re surrounded by people coming from different backgrounds, with different interests, but who have all come together for a night to love a common sound. Music has a beautifully unique way of bringing people together in a mutual respect that we sadly don’t often see. Retrospectively some of my favorite moments of feeling like I was truly living came from swaying next to strangers who I knew nothing about and who I would probably never see again, but who I knew were feeling the exact same thing as I was in that moment. It’s about feeling connected to others, to the sound, and to this life. All that being said, I’ve realized if missed concerts are basically my main regrets in life; I’m probably doing all right.

I want to do it all

This has proved to make things rather difficult in planning for my future. There are bad days when I think it would be much easier if I had a narrower focus of interests or knew exactly what I wanted to do with my life. But on the good days I know that having a wide range of interests makes me a better-rounded and more interesting person. I believe that if you take honest interest in the diversity of people and your surroundings, life has a lot more to offer you. Most things in this world genuinely intrigue me and I want to experience the most that I can while I’m here; whether those are considered to be ‘big things’ or ‘little things’. Who says you can’t do it all?