when the college you chose doesn’t choose you

In an effort to make my online presence as a writer a bit more cohesive, I will be taking pieces of mine published on various platforms and adding them to my LipLiner portfolio.  Next up is a piece originally published for Obsessee in March 2017– “How I Survived Not Going to the College of My Choice*”.  Enjoy!  

When you’re young and have only ever known a life surrounded by school, how can you not dream about what your college experience will be like when you finally get there? Personally, I imagined an open green terrace where I would sit with friends and listen to music while doing schoolwork—a daydream where I was never stressed about papers, grades, or deadlines. My roommate and I would get along swimmingly, our room’s décor light and airy, our door always open because people always want to stop in and chat.

I was snapped out of this daydream rather abruptly. As it turns out, life doesn’t always go the way movies would like us to believe.

First came the challenge of actually applying for college. They forget to tell you that it’s honestly kind of boring looking up schools online. First you have to make sure they have a major you may be interested in pursuing. (“May” being the keyword here because who at 18 really knows what they want to do with their life?) The next hurdle is finding a college you can afford, and on top of that is identifying somewhere you’d actually want to take the time to visit first, to solidify your decision.

Luckily I did fall in love with a school. It was a small one, just an hour away from my house. I remember thinking after my first campus tour that it was close enough to visit home yet far enough away to forge my own path. I don’t know exactly what about it made me feel so comfortable. Maybe it was the weather (sunny and a little breezy); maybe it was the stone walls and big open windows of academic buildings; it even could have been the faces of two tour guides when their groups crossed paths. I remember they looked genuinely thrilled to run into one another, exchange pleasantries, and confirm plans for when the tours ended. This was the type of contentment I craved.

But I didn’t get to go to the school of my choice, and I said goodbye to what I might’ve considered home. I got in, but money ended up being, of course, the root of all problems. When it came time to put down a deposit for housing (that other cost you have to research), my family and I decided it was better for me to commute to a state school 45 minutes from home than have to take out loans that I would end up struggling to pay off.

When I graduated high school, I couldn’t help feeling like I was missing out. One by one, my friends packed up their rooms and drove to their top school while I stayed home—it didn’t seem like I was growing. Sure, plenty of people stay home for 2+ years upon graduating, and there’s nothing wrong with that at all—it just wasn’t what I had imagined for myself.

When I started college, I didn’t want to see its similarities to my dream school: lots of open greenery, a great study abroad program, an accredited English department. Rather, I was focused on the fact that I wasn’t where I wanted to bed. Although I had great grades my first year, my preoccupation was keeping me from finding the feeling of comfort I so desired. When you have your heart set on this experience you’ve built up for yourself, you don’t want to think about how it’ll work out differently (potentially for the better, even); instead, you focus on what you could be missing out on.

The light at the end of this story is that, of course, it ended up being for the best. I made friends I liked to meet for coffee. I took classes with professors with a profound passion for their subjects, which inspired me greatly. (I don’t think I would’ve read and enjoyed Beowulf otherwise.) I found clubs that allowed me to take up leadership roles and encouraged me to write honestly and creatively. I even studied Shakespeare… in London.

They say that when one door closes, another opens. Perspective like this is important when faced with opportunities that don’t go according to your master plan. Ultimately, I’ve found that setting is arbitrary when approaching your college experience. You can still meet that friend you love, find that class to awaken your soul, and encounter people who are always down to hang out when you need them—even if it’s not at the college you thought you couldn’t live without.


*This is a super dramatic title, and though I’m definitely super dramatic, I did not pick it.

3 thoughts on “when the college you chose doesn’t choose you

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