THE BLOG
05/26/2016 11:08 am ET Updated May 27, 2017

Why I Turned Down My Dream School and Took a Gap Year

Lorenzo Bianchi's photo via Getty Images

SAMANTHA TETRAULT
Flagler College '17

The day I got accepted into NYU, I stayed up giggling and grinning like an idiot. All of my hard work had finally paid off. I wanted to become a filmmaker, so NYU Tisch was basically the best thing that could have happened to me.

I had taken countless standardized tests. I was the captain of the cross country team, a proctor, and the head of a publication. I was basically the golden child of college acceptances.

But I turned it down.

It all started when I took a gap year. I was offered the opportunity to study abroad in a gap year program, so I put NYU on hold and set sail for my year off. When I returned home, nothing felt the same.

First of all, I started to realize that my dream might not be worth the cost. NYU is expensive. Like, really expensive. Did I really want to take on such severe debt just for a degree In film, of all things? I wasn't even so sure of my major anymore -- let alone taking on over $100k in loan debt to make it a possibility.

Nothing seemed to make as much sense as it did that day I got my acceptance letter. For years, I imagined myself going to college in NYC. How do you give up that many years' worth of daydreams?

In February of 2014, I formally withdrew my acceptance from NYU and started the college application process all over again. The deadline had already passed for most colleges, so I struggled to find schools that would even consider me.

Luckily, I was accepted to a few small liberal art schools closer to home. They were the complete opposite of NYU, but they felt right in a way NYU hadn't in months. So, here I am today, studying English at a college in a quiet town by the beach. I don't have a zillion dollars in loan debt, and I feel confident I made the right choice.

This school is definitely less challenging than a more elite school would have been, but The New York Times argues that that can work to my advantage. I'm more likely to graduate at the top of my class in this environment, thus leading to more job opportunities in the future.

I won't say that I don't think about what my life would have been like at NYU. I do. All the time. Sometimes with sadness, but never with regret. I've found a new passion in English, and I've discovered that there is bravery in changing one's mind.

So don't feel bad about being unsure, and don't be afraid to change your mind. There's strength in recognizing when something doesn't feel right. Don't believe the hype about having to attend the most prestigious college in order to lead a successful life. Studies show that if you're a good student, what school you attended doesn't really matter at all. College is a match to be made, not a prize to be won.

Graduating from high school and taking the next big step toward college can be daunting, so a growing number of students are choosing to take a gap year to focus on personal growth. Whether you spend a year traveling, volunteering or working, we'd love to share your story. If you'd like to contribute a text or video piece, please email gapyear@huffingtonpost.com and tell us all about your experience.

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