Your College List: Planning for a Change of Heart

You chose your list of schools a while ago, and now you’re in the thick of the application process. Perhaps you’ve already applied Early Action or even Early Decision.

I know you just want the whole process to be over. But, unless you’re already applying to more than nine or 10 schools, which is more than enough, you might want to consider adding another school or two to your list.

Why? Because of what often happens over the course of senior year: You change.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard students say, “I don’t want to go to some tiny college in the middle of nowhere,” only to end up exactly at a tiny college in the middle of nowhere, because they absolutely fell in love with the place. Same with urban universities: Sometimes the “no-city-for-me” student is the one that ends up at NYU.

Then there’s the life-changing class you take spring of senior year that makes you rethink everything. It can happen: in the fall, you apply to schools that have great biology departments, and then you take that random art history class just for fun, and suddenly realize what your calling is.

Be honest: have you said any of the following to yourself when choosing your list of colleges to apply to?

“No gigantic universities where I’m just a number.”
“No rural schools in farm towns.”
“No city colleges: I want trees!”
“No teeny-tiny schools where I know everyone.”
“I can’t afford anything but a state university.”

(That last one, by the way, about what you can or can’t afford, may be faulty thinking on your part: many private colleges are very generous with financial aid, sometimes even enough to make up the difference between the cost of a state school and a private one.) And, you may not need to fret about additional application fees, either: here’s a list of schools that do not charge a fee to apply.

You may well never change your mind about where you want to go to school. But I’m asking you to consider adding a school or two that are outside your comfort zone. You will grow and change over the course of the next few months. So you might want to be prepared, just in case you surprise yourself.