College. The words makes me almost cringe. I have a huge amount of excitement for what is to come, but I am anxious, as I have no idea where I’ll be a year from now. If you had asked me four months ago what my plans were, I’d tell you I had it all figured out. I was going to the University of Tennessee to study veterinary science. Then life hit me in the face.
I didn’t want to be a veterinarian. I love animals, but I’m not a science person whatsoever. I can’t handle blood or guts or seeing people being given shots. How could I plan to do these things with my future when I can’t handle them now?
I took a step back and reexamined what I was thinking, and I figured out that my dream school may also not quite be just that.
Maybe I was supposed to be elsewhere. People say when you find where you’re supposed to be, you have a feeling of peace with your decisions, and I just didn’t have that with UT. I was uneasy with the thought of going to such a big school and not knowing what I was doing.
So I began to look into other places, other interests. I looked into schools that two months ago I would have laughed at. I’m currently in the process of deciding between two great schools, and have an idea of what my studies will consist of. However, I was scared to death before this, and even now, I’m still nervous.
Because I have been in the shoes of the wanderer, I would like to provide some tips to those of you looking into colleges, or even just trying to figure out what in the world you are doing.
Don’t panic. You don’t have to know exactly where you are going and what you are doing right now. There are college students who still have no idea what they’re doing.
It’s good to get some idea of what you may like to do. If you have no clue, try taking the Briggs-Meyer personality test. Once you’ve taken it and gotten your results, it has a list of careers that you may like based on your personality type.
Don’t freak out because everyone else seems like they know exactly what they want to do. A few people might, but most people don’t. They have ideas, but they have no clue what life holds in store for them. Relax. No one knows what they are doing.
Make a list of your accomplishments early. Don’t wait until you are in the middle of a college application to try and recall your community service projects and clubs/organizations. Keep a journal or some form of a list of awards you have won, positions you’ve held, community service you do, clubs you’re involved in, etc. It makes it so much easier when the time actually comes.
Look into colleges early. Tour colleges your junior year or early in your senior year. Go visit colleges you don’t think you care about at all. You may think nothing of the college now, but give it a fighting chance. It may be the place you’re destined to love.
When you begin to apply for college, apply early in the school year. You should probably apply in August, if possible. You may go into your senior year not having a clue how to even apply for college. That’s okay. It’s not that hard. Go to the school’s website and look for the button that says “apply.” It involves basic information about yourself. Your name, school, sometimes your schedule, GPA, address, phone number, etc. This also makes you applicable for scholarships. Don’t wait! Scholarships are super important!
Apply for a bunch of scholarships. Even the ones you think you have no chance of getting. You’d be surprised at some of the things there are scholarships for (being a ginger, an only child, having freckles). You just have to be willing to look. I recommend the Scholly app. It costs a dollar, but it gives you access to tons of scholarships based on your information. You put your age, gender, etc., into this app, and it will give you scholarships you may be applicable for. Don’t rely entirely on your FAFSA to cover your college expenses. Sometimes it doesn’t give as much as you’d hope.
This is completely optional, but my suggestion is to apply for the Tennessee Promise even if you have no intentions of using it. Follow through–go to the meetings, do the community service. It’s a backup option if something goes wrong in the next few months. If you end up not having enough money, if something happens to one of your parents, etc., you have an option for two years of free school, which is so much better than being stuck with nothing because you didn’t want to attend the meetings and didn’t feel like doing the Promise.
Talk to friends who go to schools you’re interested in. Ask them to send you pictures of the dorms, the campus, etc. Ask about their favorite and least favorite parts of the school. What’s their church program like? Are there sports? Clubs? What can I do in my free time? Is the food disgusting or delicious in the cafeteria? How many people are in classes? How difficult are your teachers? Do you like the school? Chances are, your friends won’t mind a bit to tell you about it because they probably had the same fears at one point that you do now.
If you’re interested in certain programs, you can often set up a meeting with the director. For example, you can call UT to set up an appointment with their marching band director. Many clubs, organizations, and sports do the same thing, and all it takes to find out is to call the school and ask. This gives you the opportunity to ask any questions you may have and to see if you really want to do this is in college. Sometimes teachers in your specific major will also meet with you and let you ask questions about the classes, requirements, etc.
Keep your mind open! You may think you know exactly what you’re doing, but chances are, a year from now your plans may be entirely different. Don’t get your heart set strictly on one thing or another. Have some options. A few ideas for majors, and a few colleges. You may be surprised by what you find.