In 2004, I was a junior in high school and ready to consider which colleges and universities I would apply to. Both my parents had not gone away to school, so we were all exploring this concept of a four year college for the first time, with the help of my boarding school college counselor.
I had my heart set on going to a school in a big city like New York or Boston. I really wanted to go to Northeastern; I’m not 100% sure why, but I think it probably had a lot to do with their very glossy brochures!
Luckily, my parents insisted that I apply to a diverse group of schools, and so mixed in with the extremely urban schools were some suburban and rural land grant institutions. We went on campus tour after campus tour, visiting colleges across New York, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania. I only applied to one school in Connecticut because I was really sure that I wanted to live outside the state.
At first, I had told my parents that I didn’t want to tour campuses since I already knew exactly where I wanted to go from looking online and at brochures. However, my mom said she personally really wanted to see all the campuses and we made it into a fun road trip, bringing my brother along so he could see some schools for when he applied to college, too. On that trip, I started learning something—attending a city school seemed like a fun fantasy when I was dreaming of future college me, but in reality I was not a city girl. There were so many cars, not to mention all the people around who weren’t a part of the school. I learned that I really wanted an isolated community in a more rural environment.
When the acceptances and rejections started coming in, I found out I had been accepted to a healthy mix of schools, but Northeastern was not one of them! Having toured many different schools at that point, I can say that I was slightly disappointed, but at the same time, the rejection reinforced what I was already starting to suspect: Northeastern was not the right fit for me.
My parents and I laid my options out: I did get into several other schools in major cities like New York, Boston, and Pittsburgh, so I could still go to a school in a major city. In fact, I could go to a school right next to Northeastern. However, all the campus tours had actually taught me something really important: I did not want to go to school in a big city. Instead, I chose the most rural school I had applied to, and the only school in Connecticut I had applied to, The University of Connecticut. I took one look at the beautiful rolling hills of the Storrs campus and was ready to commit pretty much on the spot.
In retrospect, I am so happy with where I went to college. It definitely ended up being the perfect school for me. I went home at least once a month since it was only an hour and a half away, plus I was able to meet some amazing professors who set me on the path for my future career.
So what can you take away from my story? Here are some questions to ask yourself if you get rejected from your first choice school:
Are you sure your first choice is still your first choice?
It may seem like a silly question, but do you really want to go to what you consider to be your first choice school? It’s really common to have an idea of The Perfect School in your head, when in reality what you should be looking for is the perfect school for you, exactly as you are and not the person you wish you were.
Is there a reason you didn’t get accepted?
Maybe the college or university doesn’t think you’d fit in well on their campus. In reality, I’m not a very competitive person, and I think I might have struggled in the competitive city environment of Northeastern. Take a good look at the school and yourself: could you see yourself fitting in?
Could you be happy somewhere else?
Look at the schools you were accepted to. Could you be happy at any of those places? Plenty of students attend their second choice school and end up loving it. Others attend just for a year in order to get their grades up so they can apply to their first choice again. By reevaluating other schools you got into, you might realize that you could be just as happy at your second choice school as your first.
The bottom line is that getting into your first choice is great, but in reality, it doesn’t matter where you go to school; what really matters is what you accomplish while you’re there.