How I Got It Right the First Time

Going into my own college search, here are two things I knew I didn’t want:

  1. To go to college with the majority of my high school graduating class, which eliminated several nearby flagship universities.
  2. An art degree (which is not me knocking art students, because what you do is amazing— but for me, let’s just say there’s a reason I use a computer).

It turned out that my quest for a graphic design program not based in fine arts narrowed my search significantly. That brings me to my first sliver of advice—focus on the program. You can find the class-by-class curriculum for any academic major offered by a school on its website, and you will be amazed how many approaches there can be to earning the same degree. Pay attention!

A word of caution, though—the perfect program doesn’t mean much if, to get it, you have to exist on a campus that doesn’t make you feel at home. That’s advice sliver number two—feel it out. Please indulge my corniness for a brief moment and trust me when I tell you that you will know when your feet are on the right campus. You’ll just know it.

It might take one visit, it might take five—I visited what is now my alma mater on four separate occasions before I finally got that fuzzy feeling—but if it’s right, you will feel that it is.

Here are two ways I could tell:

  1. I had the infamous “ah-ha!” moment where I saw a classroom, a room in a residence hall, and a green grassy quad, and could just see myself sitting there, on that campus. Literally.
  2. I was psyched to be there! If a campus can make you find joy and excitement in what is admittedly a stressful process, you’re at the right place.

Something I often tell students is that choosing where you will spend the next four years of your life is the first time you have ever had to truly look beyond the decisions being made by everyone around you—your peers, your parents—and focus on what the right move is for you. And when you do that, you will learn things about yourself.

So, what things do you know going into your college search? To get it right the first time, might I suggest starting with what you don’t want?

I wish you all the best on your journey!