How to Mindfully Choose Your College Experience

College. A scary and yet exciting place to be. This is a time when you will grow and a place where you will learn. Going to college means to become more independent. It means to be free. But with great power, comes great responsibility…

Choosing a university can be a very long and tedious process. I remember feeling a lot of stress as I tried to decide what I wanted to do with my future. People at my school would compare their SAT scores, look at the rankings of the schools we were each applying to, and stressed about how we could’ve gotten a better grade in a class. We were all competing to prove who was the most academically qualified.

Looking back, if there is one major lesson I learned throughout the process it’s to always remain true to yourself. We each have our own unique paths after high school, and ultimately, in our lives. What I realize now is that it’s not about getting into the highest ranked school, but understand who you are and what is it that you are seeking to achieve in the next four years of your life. You want to find a place where you feel comfortable to be yourself and where you believe you are going to grow as a person.

Here are some more tips I want to share with you on how to mindfully choose the school that is right for you – and what I used to end up in a place that I really love.

  • Ask yourself why you want to go to college: Is it to pursue a career that you are really interested in? Is it to be able to live away from your parents? Is it for the parties? Whatever it may be, and as we have talked about before in The Self-Power Club, it is always good to ask why before you make a big decision. I personally knew I wanted to go to college because I wanted to receive an education that supported creativity and the arts.
  • Consider the Environmental Factors That Matter To You: Knowing what type of environment you work best in can help you identify the possible locations that do and don’t fit. You may conser the location, the weather, the night-life, outdoor activities nearby and even the culture of the city or town where the school is located. I knew I wanted to be close to my family so I limited my search of schools for those located in Southern California. I was also looking for a small town type of environment because I wanted to take a break from the city.
  • Understand the philosophy of the school: You are going to get educated anywhere you go, but how you receive that education changes tremendously depending on the school. I would really recommend taking some time to read the “about” page of each university. Mission statements also do a good job at capturing their educational philosophy in just a few sentences.
  • Read about the majors you are interested in: Similar to my previous point, try to read over the academic catalog of the career(s) of your choice. It is also okay if you aren’t really sure what to pursue yet. Reading about the classes and requirements can help you get a better glimpse of what subjects you would be learning about. For example, some schools that offer psychology as a major have classes that are more theory based while other schools are heavier on research.
  • Look at the different activities offered on campus: College is not only about the academics, you also want to have fun! What made Chapman University really stand out for me was the amount of student involvement that was encouraged on campus. I searched for my school’s list of clubs and started to get a glimpse of what the campus community felt like. You could also look at the different traditions or honour societies that each school is affiliated with.
  • Consider the size of the school: Are you okay with going to a lecture with more than 200 people? Or do smaller classes sound better? Knowing what the ratio of students to teachers is very important. I like Chapman because the classes here are small (about 20 people). I feel like this allows me to participate in the classroom and form closer relationships with my teachers and classmates.
  • Set an intention: Picture yourself being on a college campus. How do you see yourself? With a lot of friends? With a lot of homework? Before going to college, I would recommend thinking about what is it that you want to achieve during your time there. It could be anything from growing professionally or meeting new people from different parts of the world. Whatever it may be, having an intention can help you set a direction that fits you.

I ended up going to Chapman University because it really fit with my personality and what I was looking for. The liberal arts education gave me more freedom to choose my classes based on my own interest. I also really enjoy the small community because it has made it easier for me to adapt to my new home. My friend, on the other hand, goes to Penn State and really enjoys the big campus environment. She likes the diversity and ability to meet new people from different cultures everywhere she goes. She also really enjoys the fun home football games that happen every other weekend.  

Whatever path you may choose to take, I hope you find a place that matches with your own personality. Spend some time researching your different options available and connect it to your own interests. Each school will offer different doors of opportunities, but it is up to you to choose the one that feels the best for you.

If you have any other questions about college or even my transition from high-school, don’t hesitate to ask!

“All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.” – Walt Disney

Carla Frias

Life isn't perfect... but it does have its moments. 🌻

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