I usually avoid talking explicitly about the college search process in this space. I figure if I write clearly and carefully about my life and the way I’m trying to live it, I’ll be doing my job right. Some of you will like what you read, and identify with me, and some won’t. Some of those who don’t might identify instead with one or more of my co-Diarists, all of whom are very different from me and all of whom are excellent. Some of you won’t identify with any of us, and that’s no bad thing; there’s a place out there for you. It just probably ain’t Clark. (Incidentally, those of you who do identify with one or more of us would probably do well to learn a bit more about Clark from formal sources, or by planning a visit to campus.)
Still, if you’ve been reading this blog for its intended purpose – as a resource for students and parents looking to make their college choice – this is likely the last post of mine you’ll read: Clark’s deposit deadline, as you well know, is Wednesday. And so I thought I’d take a few paragraphs today to share my thoughts on making your college decision. All the usual caveats apply: you’re going to have to take what I say, about my experience, and apply it to your conception of you, right now and in the future. And if you’re anything like I was when I was eighteen, you is a very fluid concept right now.
If you know exactly what you want to do with your life, the college search process is pretty darn easy. You talk to people who are already doing what you want to do, ask them what skills they need to do it, and find places that’ll help you get those skills. Sometimes that means a college degree, sometimes it doesn’t. If it does mean college, you research the relevant departments, contact the professors, do all those normal things. That’s all (relatively) easy. It gets harder if you don’t really know what you want to do with your life.
If that’s the case, here’s what I’d say: Think about all the things you could possibly imagine doing with your life. And go really far. The things you’ve thought about doing every few weeks but can’t find the way to make it work? Include those. The thing you vaguely considered once when you watched a movie about it and it caught your interest? Include that. Include as much as you can, because you don’t want to miss out on it later. Now. To do any particular one of those things, you have to develop certain skills: maybe get a degree in a particular field, maybe get internships related to the subject, maybe just do that thing as much as possible. Whatever. There are things you need to do – steps you need to take – and if you don’t take those steps, you won’t be able to do any of those things.
So here’s the thing. Pick the college that closes the fewest doors for you.
You want to go to a place that gives you options, because options – otherwise known as choices – are power. It’s true for me, and it’s true for you. You don’t want to commit to a place that has a ‘really good X, Y, or Z program’, and then find that you don’t have any interest at all in doing that thing two years down the line. You want a place that gives you the most options possible.
Later, you’ll have to start narrowing things down, tailoring yourself specifically to the things you want out of life. But that’s later. You’re eighteen now, and you’re still figuring that first bit out. (Honestly, so am I, and so are people much older and wiser than I am.)
That’s all the advice I have. If that leads to Clark, that’s great. I love it here. If it doesn’t, that makes sense too. Make the right choice for you, not for others. (Although your parents should probably have a say, even if they’re not paying for a dime of your education. They’re your parents, after all.) If you have any questions in the next few days, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org! I’m always around to answer questions.