Advice for college searches

For high schoolers who are wanting to prepare for college, the process can be intimidating. Whether you are a freshman who is simply thinking about what your future might look like, or a senior who is deciding where to commit, the college process is constantly looming overhead. My college experience was different from most. I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do for most of my high school career. Halfway through my junior year I decided I wanted to major in a field relating to social science and at the end of my junior year I settled on Public Policy or Political Science, but I still had no idea where I wanted to go to school.

I spent my summer doing research and remained thoroughly unimpressed by everything I found. I knew I wanted to receive a good education without spending insane amounts of money, so I started looking into scholarships. As far as choosing a school went, I was positive I wanted to leave Springfield and go somewhere bigger. Since I knew I wanted to study Public Policy, however, my mom kept asking me to visit UIS (University of Illinois Springfield) since they have a really good program for it. I finally surrendered and agreed to visit in August. Of course, my mom was right and I really liked the campus. It also helped when I found out I could earn a pretty hefty scholarship. I went home and did more research on their programs for my intended majors and I was really impressed with what I found. I ended up only applying to UIS and one other school and officially accepted my admission to the UIS Honors Program in December.

While my college experience was a lot different than most, being filled with doubt for a long time and suddenly making a decision, I think other people can still learn from it. First of all, I would say you should never count out a college until you have visited. Once I spoke with an admissions counselor and saw the UIS campus, my neutral opinion changed completely. 

Secondly, I would recommend doing substantial amounts of research. I thought I wanted to go to many different schools, but changed my mind after I learned about their programs for my intended major. Also regarding your major, it is definitely okay to be unsure about it. Even though my decision was based on going to a school with a good program for my major, most people end up changing their majors multiple times during their time in college. 

I would also say it is imperative you take time to relax when you are trying to make your college decision. I would get really stressed out about not knowing where I wanted to go, but then I would remember how most of my friends and peers also had no idea what they wanted to do. Ironically, I ended up being one of the first people to decide on a school and make an official decision. 

My last tip is to trust yourself. I thought it was crazy that I would go on a visit and suddenly know where I wanted to go, but that is exactly how it went in my case. If you find a school or program you love, do not question the process. Go with your gut and work hard so you can attend the college you love.

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