I remember being in your shoes and finding out that the truly stressful part of the college admissions process came after the decisions were released. As hard as it may be to see it this way, this time is an incredible opportunity for you to do some soul-searching and understand what is important to you.
You have likely been admitted to some awesome schools, placed on a waiting list at others (maybe even this one), and perhaps received some disappointing news.
For some students at this point, the decision might be clear. To those students, I applaud your assurance!
If you are like me, however, the answer will come only after many days of questioning and discernment. Looking back on that period of uncertainty, I can identify those things that were important to me at the time and others that only became clear in hindsight.
Find Your Community
The first, and likely easiest, thing to focus on is community. When I say community, I am talking about both the community on campus and beyond campus. Often times, a visit (even a virtual visit) to a university can help you better understand whether the community fits.
Think about the people who are at each prospective university—peers, professors, administration. Is this a community where you can see yourself flourishing? Are the people there going to help you succeed? Are they going to push you and support you to achieve your fullest potential as a student, friend, roommate, and person?
Find Your Passion
Think about the experience at each prospective university—residential life, activities, and class sizes. Are there opportunities that support the path you see yourself taking? If you know your intended field of study, does the university offer that as a major? If you change your mind, are there avenues to help you explore and settle on a new path? Is the environment conducive to your happiness and success?
Think about the opportunities at and beyond the university, like study abroad, internship and full-time job placement, the alumni network. Thinking about job placement might seem far off; however, the network and opportunities after you graduate will quickly become important.
Find a Place That Challenges You
The next and much more challenging piece to discern is room for growth. I challenge you to question how each place will help you become a better version of yourself. It can be as simple as location and academics or as complex as diversity and spirituality. Think about how each will push you out of your comfort zone and then provide the support needed to succeed.
What kind of growth is most important to you and how will you grow your mind, heart, and soul? College is a wonderful and sometimes painful time of immense growth. It’s important to find a place that will grow you in a meaningful and constructive way.
Above all, it is important to find a place that feels like home. Some people will feel this the moment they step on campus. Others will take some time to find this feeling.
Remember, this is the next step, not the final step. If you get to a university and find that it is not what you thought it would be, there are always opportunities to transfer. Through working in admissions, I have discovered that, far more often than not, you will end up where you are meant to be.
In the end, it is often those intangibles that make the decision. I remember when I was agonizing over the decision to go to school so far from my home in Vermont and two main factors stood out to me. One was the sense of Notre Dame’s community. No matter how from away it was, Notre Dame always felt like home. I loved that with the amazing national and international student body I would be entering into a supportive community going on this collective journey together, and we would always be there to help each other through.
Secondly, as I thought about growth outside of the classroom, I found Notre Dame uniquely equipped to push me out of my comfort zone to ask myself big questions and figure out the type of person I wanted to be in the world after I graduated.
It literally took me until my last day, May 1, to decide to attend Notre Dame, but joining the Notre Dame family has never been a decision I regretted.
Whether you are at Notre Dame or not, I truly hope the same for you and your alma mater.
You are a very talented person, and there are many places that you will thrive. However, try to take this time to truly discern what you want during the next four years. As it is said many times around here, college can be more than just a four-year decision. If you discern carefully, you will find that it will be something that supports you throughout your journey in life.
Brendan Corsones is a senior assistant director in the Office of Undergraduate Admissions. He is the regional admissions counselor for Delaware, Maine, New Hampshire, New York (Upstate/Western only), Pennsylvania, Vermont, and West Virginia. Meet Brendan.