The summer prior to my senior year of high school was when I, like many of my friends, was finalizing campus visits. It was an exciting time knowing that not only was I about to begin the college process, but this would ultimately commemorate the next stage of my life. As the summer concluded and the academic year began, I knew that there was a probable chance that some of the schools I had fallen in love with, would be schools that my friends were also considering. Since I attended a small New England boarding school, discussions of the application process extended past the academic day. Conversations would spark whenever a friend displayed their newly bought sweatshirt from one of the colleges they visited that summer. Social media became saturated with photographs of college towns or school signs, revealing the universities. While some friends took a reserved approach, others were more outspoken. It became a game to see who got to call a school “first” and applying to a friend’s top choice would be deemed as inconsiderate or rude. I couldn’t help but wonder, how would I prevent this type of competition from affecting my own college journey while applying to college? How would I support my friends, while also advocating for myself?
Knowing What You Want
An easy way that helped me discover what I truly wanted in a school was by making lists. After each school visit, I identified the pros and cons of each school. Within my friend groups, hearing the names of various colleges and universities discussed raised questions. Am I choosing to apply to enough schools? Why are my friends looking at ten schools, while I’m only looking at six? I was selective during my college search. There were certain components, such as the academic majors offered, school atmosphere, and location, that were necessary for finding myself successful there. I knew I wanted to major in science, so finding a school that had a strong science program was important. When I discovered schools that offered more than just biology programs, but also exercise science and public health degrees, it narrowed down my search. I also knew that I wanted a school that had a campus atmosphere, rather than one that was in a city. Just because a school seems like a great fit for your friend, does not mean it is going to be a great fit for you as well. Being aware of what you want in a school will greatly benefit you in the end.
Becoming Your Own Best Advocate
From my experience, it is a personal decision in discussing the schools you wish to apply to. It is your choice. However, you should never regret using your voice in allowing your friends to know how you feel. Feelings of envy and frustration may emerge. Your friendships may be tested and challenged during this time. Stay true to yourself and be open to discussing your feelings with friends, if necessary. They are, after all, the people who have stood by you throughout your high school career.
Not Selling Yourself Short
It is easy to fall into a game of comparison between you and your peers during the application process. At the end of the day, you are applying to college for yourself, not for your friends. Your application should exemplify the characteristics and accomplishments that will make you an integral part of the community you wish to attend. It is natural to feel discouraged when a friend seems to have a more well-rounded résumé and is deciding to apply to some of the same universities. Instead of making comparisons to others around you, focus on your own unique attributes and accomplishments. Take pride in your successes, as they have shaped you into the person you are today. Everyone has his or her own story, and it is important to recognize that.
While competition is inevitable, centering your attention to your own application process is imperative. If I could give my 17-year-old self advice, I would say that you will get through it, you will find that “perfect” school for yourself. In the end, there is a college for everyone. Applying to college can be a daunting task but you will emerge as a stronger you.
Guest blogger Alexis Dominicus is a rising senior at Elon University.