So what happened next in my college search? I stopped looking. I had only visited five schools, but somehow felt like I knew everything I needed to know (I didn’t). While I wanted to apply Early Decision (ED) to SMALL LIBERAL ARTS COLLEGE with every fiber of my being, my parents and I decided it wasn’t the best idea. Well, they convinced me it wasn’t a good idea. I’m sure that I railed that preventing me from applying to my dream school was unfair if not downright cruel, but I ultimately respected their guidance. I knew cost was going to be a factor in where I would attend college and that basically translated into not applying ED because if I did, I wouldn’t be able to compare financial aid packages. Reasonable. I could see the logic: don’t lock yourself into a decision if you don’t have all the facts.
Now, lucky for you this (the perceived need to compare packages from different schools) isn’t as necessary today. Increased transparency in both admission and financial aid, including the universal availability of Net Price Calculators (NPC) and Early FAFSA, make it possible to understand what a college might cost you before you even apply. I’m so jealous! (Here are some thoughts from a previous post on NPCs and talking about the cost of college.)
ERDean’s Piece of Advice #4: Trust and respect between you and your parents is absolutely key in this college search and admission process. I am sure the conversation to convince me not to apply ED was really hard for my parents. I have trouble denying my own kid ice cream, so I can only imagine the strength it took to say “let’s pump the breaks on what you clearly- in this moment- believe to be the only thing that will ever bring you joy”. Like all parents, they wanted me to be happy, but they also needed to be practical and to model responsibility. We had some really serious chats about finances, and our own goals and dreams for my college experience. It was one of the first times I really had a conversation with my parents where it felt like were all adults. Sure, we talked about what happened in the news and things like that, but this was a conversation about real life adulting and I was in on it. They were trusting me with their own insecurities. It was terrifying and exhilarating. So the piece of advice: Above all else, trust and respect each other and lean into the moments when your relationship between parent and child is maturing.
In the end, I applied to four schools (and don’t ask me if they were reach, target or likely schools- I had NO idea at the time):
- my cousin’s school (which I felt meh about)
- my sister’s school (which was fine, but I really only applied because I thought we might get a group discount if we both went to the same school—trust me, that’s not how financial aid works)
- SMALL LIBERAL ARTS COLLEGE (obviously)
- and SMALL LIBERAL ARTS COLLEGE #2 (which as you may recall I found to be populated by people I hated)
So…why did I apply to SMALL LIBERAL ARTS COLLEGE #2? I had decided that I was going to go to SMALL LIBERALS ARTS COLLEGE or I would die, so why did it matter? (Remember, I was very dramatic).
This is a “do as I say, not as I do” moment…. Hence:
Piece of Advice #5: In the words of a former colleague of mine: “love your list”. Make sure you have multiple schools on that list where you would be VERY happy and excited to attend. Or, perhaps even better, only apply to schools where you could be happy and where you would be enthusiastic about attending. There are going to be lots of schools that will meet the criteria you determine will be the best fit for you. From that (probably decently-sized) list, find the ones where the character, the people, and the vibe really speak to you. Your high school or college counselor will give you advice about having a blend of reach schools, target schools, and likely schools (I’ll leave what is the precise or right blend of reach, target, and likely schools your counselors), but I strongly encourage you to like, if not love, every school on the list of schools to which you will ultimately apply. To put it plainly: If you don’t want to go there- WHY APPLY?
(Piece of advice #5b is for parents: please don’t “make” your child apply to a school they don’t like. It’s not good for them… or for you.) Remember: love your list!
Up next: The exciting conclusion of ERDean’s College Search!