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Monday, February 16, 2015

'tis the season for college acceptance letters

Eeeeeek, this part of the year is always so exciting. It's so awesome to see people to get into their dreams schools and realize their lives are finally taking off. That being said, some people know where they're meant to go to school and some just don't. It's harder when you add in distance, money, and family/friends into the equation in making the "big decision."

There's a lot to think about and more than that a lot to OVER think about. So here's my story, about how I ended up at Clemson and how an over thinker, like me, finally made the "big decision."

Virginia has great schools. And when I say great I mean it, they're nationally accredited prestigious institutions. UVA, Virginia Tech, and William and Mary come to mind first- and I visited them. Each and every one also including James Madison University. To me, picking a college was like picking a wedding dress- I felt like I was just supposed to know, that I was just supposed to have a gut feeling about it. And I did get that feeling, it just happened to be 2 states away at a place called Clemson University.

I was just a sophomore in high school when I visited Clemson for the first time. I wanted to be a pharmacist (at that time.. not sure what I was thinking looking back) and Clemson has an accelerated top notch program for pharmacy- so in the long run with less time spent in school I would make out financially. I fell in love with the southern charm across campus. Students said hi and "go tigers" as we passed them. Bowman field was as gorgeous as ever that day, crisp green with a furry of students tanning and playing sports. Tillman hall peeked over a tree in the background with an impressive bell tower covered in gorgeous brick. The town is small, and Clemson was definitely it's own college bubble. I wanted a big school with a small town feeling with greek life, a good reputation academically, study abroad opportunities, and a spirited fan base for sports. Clemson provided all of that. At the time, at just 15 I had NO idea that that's why I wanted to go to Clemson. All I knew is it felt right, and that I and to go with my gut.

After that I visited other colleges in Virginia as well as in both of the Carolinas. Nothing hit me the way Clemson did. I remember in particular forcing myself to like JMU. I had to apply to colleges in Virginia, I'd gotten cold feet towards the end of my junior year about Clemson (although I never mentioned it) so I needed backups and made JMU my top pick.

Senior year started and the acceptance letters started rolling in. I got in to some great schools including JMU, Virginia Tech, & UNCW but when I opened the letters there was no sense of excitement. And by the end of getting my letters (I applied to an obnoxious amount of schools) I wasn't even excited to open them. I still hadn't heard from Clemson. I was only worried about one letter, one day, and one school- my acceptance/rejection letter on February 15th from Clemson University.

So, a year ago today I sat and waited for my mail to come. I got home at 3pm & the mail ran at 6:30. In my mind that day it'd run early, but it didn't. And I sat in the front room of my house and peered out the window for a grueling 3 and a half hours. The month of February was one of the worst months of my life. Everyone in my high school knew I wanted to go to Clemson so they asked, daily, if I had gotten in. And every day I replied "February 15th." The days winded down and by the end I just felt like tattooing "February 15th" on my forehead. All I could imagine was not getting into Clemson and walking those halls having everyone ask me if I got in, and having to say no. Promptly at 6:30 the mail came. I walked at first to the mailbox but by the end I was in a full blown sprint, and if there's one thing you should know about me it's that I DO NOT run. I knew that a small envelope was rejection but a big packet meant gold- so I opened the mailbox and a big packet was exactly what I saw.

My excitement was all consuming and overwhelming. I cried with relief and joy- I worked so hard for this moment and in that second everything paid off.

The second after, I instagrammed it and wore my favorite Clemson tshirt to school the next day.

The feeling from getting in was amazing, but shortly reality set in and I was forced with a painful dilemma. Clemson my dream school seemed like just that- a dream. 8 hours away from my friends and family with the sticker shock of out of state tuition I didn't know if I was prepared for this big change in my life.

A lot of people ask their friends and family what to do about college but I definitely stuck to myself. It's not surprising- I'm obnoxiously independent and I'm so glad I didn't let anyone else influence my opinion. I was terrified to move so far away. I'd lived in Fredericksburg, Virginia my entire life, lived in the same house, and was surrounded by the same people. But, I started to realize that college wasn't meant to be high school 2.0. You've had 4 years with these people and they're all going to go off and go to their own schools too. You can't be held back by your fear because at the end of the day the only person attending the college you pick will be you.

I made this blog today because I want everyone getting these letters to know that fear is normal. It's normal to be scared about this big change- even when you get into your dream school. But college is different, college isn't high school. And you need to go somewhere you'll be excited to go back to after break not somewhere you're dying to leave.

For me, the choice was Clemson and it was pretty crystal clear to me after my initial fear of change. Everyone's different and leaving your comfort zone definitely isn't for anyone. But, sometimes you just don't know what you want and thats okay. And sometimes you absolutely do.

Best of luck in your college decision making!