This year, my senior year, I noticed a common theme among my classmates:
First, we panicked about which schools to apply.
Then, we panicked about getting applications in on time.
Now all the deadlines have passed, and we’re panicking about responses.
People who have received responses are panicking about two different things. The first, getting a rejection letter. That sucks. But there’s nothing to be done at that point, and taking it personally won’t do you any favors. I know it’s easier said than done, but pick yourself up by the bootstraps and soldier on. The second panic is getting acceptance letters and not knowing which school to choose.
Choosing a college is a big decision, and a lot goes into being able to answer the dreaded question often asked by nosey strangers, “So, where are you going to school?” You just have to compare and contrast all of your options, and discuss them with your parents. Eventually, you make a decision. Ideally, without panic.
But, tons of applicants think they’re stuck in the first school they pick. Whether the decision was a piece of cake or felt like pulling teeth, most students don’t seem to realize that if things don’t work, it’s not the end of the world. If you end up hating the school you start out at, you can easily transfer to a different school.
However, no one ever talks to us about transferring. No one ever explains to us that it’s okay to be unhappy with your first choice then move on to another. I wish someone had sat us down and driven home the point that transferring schools is normal and reasonable. There are a million reasons to love a school, and a million reasons to hate it. Hating the school you attend can seriously affect your academic performance, and thereby close a lot of doors for you. It’s important to be at the right school. But the right school for you doesn’t have to be the first school you pick. Guidance counselors and schoolteachers should really start discussing that with us. I think it would ease at least a little bit of the panic that sweeps the senior class each year.
As I said, panic is beyond prevalent in the senior class each year. In addition to getting to college, students panic about choosing a major once they arrive on campus.
If you have absolutely no idea what you want to major in when you get to college that can seem pretty concerning. The stress on higher education makes students feel like we have to have our entire lives planned out by senior year of high school, but we really don’t have to. That expectation is bogus, and trying to meet it will only drive you crazy.
You will not fail in life because you don’t have a major decided yet. Yes, there are people in the world who do have a plan. They know what they want to study. I would argue that those people, the “knowing,” are lucky. If you are one of those lucky people, congratulations. If you’re not one of them, don’t worry. Chances are, the majority of us will change our minds at some point anyway.
The first two years of college is spent taking required courses most people don’t want, but everyone needs, in order to graduate. These classes could have nothing to do with a major, but these classes give the unknowing a chance to discover what they’re interested in pursuing further. It also gives the knowing a chance to reconsider. Maybe they don’t want to be a doctor/lawyer/engineer. Maybe that prerequisite course will strike their fancy, and make them want to become a teacher/police officer/therapist. Most schools don’t even allow you to declare a major until your sophomore or junior year of college.
It’s perfectly okay and perfectly reasonable to be among the unknowing. That’s what required courses are for, and we all have to take them anyway. There is no need to panic about your major yet you will find something, and you have plenty of time to do so. Plus, just as with your school choice, if you don’t like your first major you can change it. Change your school, change your major, do what you have to do to make the most of your higher education. It’s expensive, and it’s your future, so don’t settle for tolerable.
Also, consider this: by first attending a two-year community college, you can knock out all those required courses at a cheaper price. When you’re done, transfer to a four-year school. Instead of muddling around in required courses, you can hop right into the classes you actually want to take.
So, stop panicking. It all works out.
Nicki Kern is a senior at Bethlehem Central High School in Delmar, and is fulfilling an internship with us at The Spotlight.