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What if your #1 college isn’t YOUR #1 college?

What if your #1 college isn't YOUR #1? Deciding which college to attend is not quite like picking your favorite ice cream flavor, but it does involve knowing what you like and what you don't like and even being open to new experiences to develop your tastes and find your favorites. If you have ever watched March Madness Basketball, you might have recognized that which team everyone thought to be the favorite based on stats and history can easily shift. How does a favorite team like the Crimson Tide fall to San Diego State, or a #16 seed like Fairleigh Dickinson knock out Purdue, a number one seed? So, if you have anchored yourself to number #1 only to be faced with a surprise upset, it may be the perfect time to reconsider what all those seedings and favorites mean. In so many ways, March Madness reminds me of the unpredictability factor in college admissions and how we hitch ourselves to the idea of a favorite, a #1, or a dream school, which can undermine your ability to keep an open mind and limit your options and choices.


Being open, curious, and stepping away from the ideal of perfection brings us closer to being in the muck and messiness of life and learning that there is no one way to do things. In fact, doing things your way will make your life interesting. And maybe the biggest surprise, is that you will be in control of so much of the "doing it your way." There is much you can control as a high school student leading up to applying to college, like doing the best you can in school, choosing classes that sync up with your interests beyond required graduation requirements, engaging in meaningful activities beyond the classroom, and building a balanced college list comprised of schools you would be happy to attend.


If you're a senior and "Ivy Envy" has crept in and you applied to a school with a less than a 20% admit rate (aka 80% rejection rate), or you succumbed to the "what's one more application," otherwise known as the "more is better" approach, I hope you did that with eyes wide open to ensure you had a balanced list of schools to offset the precariousness of adding that one or two more schools. If you're a junior starting the work of building your college list, you are in control and in charge of your path to college – what you do, how you do the things you do, how you allocate your time, and how you develop the ability to self-reflect to know who you are and what you value.

 Whether you're waiting to hear from schools or starting to determine which schools to apply to, staying true to who you are, being authentic, and being present in the process rather than lulled into creating a persona you think colleges want - will lead to a successful college journey.

 It's not always easy to trust statements like "you will land where you're supposed to" or "things work out for a reason." Still, during the last wave of college admission notifications, there is no better time to remind yourself that you've done the work, built a foundation for success, and developed skills that you can carry with you no matter which school you choose. You are still in the driver's seat to decide where you will land. While your list of admitted colleges may look different from those you applied to, it's time to shift into decision mode, take a refined look at your admitted schools, and remind yourself that you can only attend one school, your favorite, your #1.


Looking for more tips and inspiration to help you start your college journey? A Field Guide for an Inspired College Journey packed with insights and resources to help you navigate your college path, is now available to order online and coming soon to your local bookstore.

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