The blog post was originally published on The Prospect, a college admissions and high school/college lifestyles website. It was written by Adam Mintzer, a sophomore at Northwestern University. You can like The Prospect on Facebook.
Two years ago I made a college choice, but was it the right one?
The honeymoon phase has long since passed, and my peers and I complain about different parts of campus. We often look at other schools and wishfully thinking that if we went to another school we would be happier because we would party more, have smaller classes or get better weather.
In fact, when I am frustrated, a part of me feels that the school seemed to present itself as better than it was. I was told that there is always something going on around campus, that the student-teacher ratio was amazing and visited on a warm fall day. I think I fell for a trap.
As my friend's little siblings begin deciding which school they want to go to, I sat in my frustration and started to wonder what I would do if I could do it again knowing what I now know. Is the grass just greener on the other side or was there something wrong with my decision?
Originally, I chose a school that passed all of my tests. I felt comfortable and could see myself as a student while on my tour, it would expose me to new kinds of people, it was well-renowned for my major, it was near a big city, and it would give me the college experiences I had always dreamed of having (football games, a campus and fraternities, etc). I felt like it was guaranteed to give me the "best years of my life."
Academically and socially it has been more difficult than I had originally imagined. My classes do not always offer the individualized attention boasted in brochures and it was not as easy to assimilate socially as older students had suggested. Yet, I now know that no matter where I would have gone, this would still be the case, so I can excuse these critiques.
Getting involved in campus life has been easier than I originally imagined. I would have never believed that on a campus people would be begging me to join their clubs or write for their publication. In fact, I am constantly forced to say no to joining or helping clubs that interest me because I simply do not have the time.
I have not utilized the big city nearby, Chicago, as much as I believed I would, nor has the university made it as easy to go into the city as I originally believed. Shuttles to downtown Chicago only run on the weekdays, and getting to the city does only take 30 minutes like advertised, but only if you have a car (about an hour by public transportation). Although I am familiar with the city, going to the city is not as casual of an event as I imagined.
The campus is as diverse as I had hoped, but I am not constantly learning about new cultures and new ways of life. However, I found that no matter where you go, like-minded people tend to hang out with each other. Therefore, although the options to interact with people from different backgrounds is there, I do not use it as much as I thought I would.
Football games, fraternity parties and other stereotypical college experiences I felt I need to have are more important to me than I thought they would be, but for different reasons than I originally believed. I found that although I do not go to every football game, the fact that we have a football team to root for is important to me. In addition, although I prefer smaller gatherings of friends, large parties are great places to see people you haven't seen in a while and meet people that you wouldn't meet otherwise.
While my college does not disappoint me based on my original criteria, new criteria have been made apparent over the past two years. These are criteria that I never thought about because they are part of the grittiness of day-to-day life. I should have known more about university health services, the experience of sitting in an introductory level class, what an average student does on a Friday night, the gyms on campus, and whether or not students lock their doors.
But, I realized none of these would have changed my decision because circumventing all of the potential issues became easy once I learned the system. For example, I was originally frustrated that the gym was always crowded after 5 p.m., but I learned that if I go at 4 p.m. or 7 p.m. I won't have a problem.
So, I would change my approach and my attitude, but not my school. I should have more heavily considered many different types of schools, not because I would have chosen them, but so that I would know with more certainty that my college was the perfect one for me. I should have been more honest with myself about what my priorities in a college were. I am not a football fan, so why a football team was important to me baffles me in retrospect. I should have known to assume brochures and websites would make everything seem a notch better than it is. I should have realized that not everything I would be doing in college would be an official part of the university. I should have known that people like to complain, so no matter where you go, someone will have something negative to say at times.
Lastly, I should have gotten rid of the notion that the perfect school for me was going to be perfect. This realization would save me a lot of frustration in the future because if I am not perfect, which I believe nobody is, how was my college going to be?