There are Lots of Ways to Get Where You're Headed

Mark Moody, Co-Director of College Counseling at Colorado Academy, joins us today in our continuing series of reflections, advice and practical guidance for students and parents on all things decisions -- from strategy, decision-making and coping through how to talk about your news with parents, friends and nosy neighbors. Read on to learn about one of the paths through your college decisions that leads to happiness -- and it's scientifically proven!



I remember opening the fat envelope from my first-choice college over twenty years ago. Nobody was home. I got so excited I ran around the living room screaming by myself. True story.

As it turned out, I didn’t go to that college. It was a far more expensive option than the college that offered me a scholarship, and attending that less expensive school was the compromise my parents and I agreed upon. At the time I felt like the universe was really unfair.

Twenty years later, so much of my life’s winding path connects back to seeds planted and passions discovered at my alma mater, which I would describe as having been so perfect for me that it’s laughable I felt so strongly about not attending my “first choice.” I know now that it was a place that probably would have been as good for me, but where I probably wouldn’t have started down pathways that are now essential parts of my identity.

There’s a kind of acceptance you receive from others that you hope to find in admission offers on those applications you sent out into the world a few months ago. There’s also another kind, and I recommend you strive for it in your outlook on the decisions as they come back. The more you can practice accepting the exciting and the disappointing news in your life, and the more you can come to see moments as opportunities in which you focus on possibilities (rather than dwelling on limitations), the happier and more successful you will be.

It’s scientifically proven!

You may even come to realize that things like where you go to college aren’t as important in the long run as your own mindset and effort. There are lots of ways to get to wherever you’re headed, and who you have become at this point in time isn’t changed by external validators like college admission results.

The most exciting part about the close of the application process is the absolute unknown that remains even after decisions are in. There is a “butterfly effect” in this decision-making stage that will set wheels in motion you can’t possibly predict. Years from now you’ll likely tell a story that highlights, in the chapter about your college days, a set of friendships, unforgettable teachers, relationships, and maybe the perfect unpredictable accident of inspirations colliding in your brain at precisely the right moment to spark a direction, a major, a career path, a lifelong passion.

You can’t know what twists or turns, highs and lows, life partners or lifelong mentors await in each choice available to you. Whether it’s the unlikely “reach” school that came through or the school you were counting on, the path taken will shape you such that you will later say, “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Let the doors closed by the admission process serve as indicators that those weren’t the right paths. And if those colleges didn’t value your application as an indicator that they were the place for you, then they were probably right—look to the places that did appreciate who you are and offer you the chance to spend a few years on their campus learning about yourself and the world. If finances influence the decision, accept the reality of that factor, too.

As you make your choice, don’t lose sight of the things that led you to apply to each college in the first place, and don’t be afraid of the things that will challenge your comfort. Put aside any disappointment from the process. If you go in with a mind made up not to like a place, you’ll find that prophesy fulfilled. If you open yourself to the community and your courses, you’ll most likely find that “fit” with a college isn’t predetermined. It’s something that you develop and grow toward with time and experience. Wherever it is that you end up, open yourself to the unpredictable, and dive in.





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