Choose Your Colors

Have you ever tried to choose paint colors at the hardware store? You go in there looking for White Paint and you find out there is no such thing. There’s Feather White, Marble White, Alabaster White, Ivory, Off-White, Nearly White, Ballet White, Antique White, etc. There’s even Navajo White and Timid White. Timid White?? What does that even mean when it comes to paint?

Anyway, you get the picture. How to choose? It’s paralyzing. Which one is exactly right? What if you choose the wrong one?

So it can go with some kids who are lucky enough to have many colleges to choose from. Alabaster College has great sciences but no arts program. Ivory College has diversity (despite its name – ha ha) but isn’t in the leafy college town you’d envisioned. Marble College has the best cafeteria of all the colleges you’ve looked at but bad wifi coverage. You like them all but which one will be the perfect fit? How can you possibly decide? What if you make a mistake?

It’s true that a lot of thought needs to go into the college decision, but some of us (and we know who we are) tend to overthink things. If you’re agonizing over this decision, there are a couple things you can try. One is to step away from it for a day or so. Just stop thinking about it. When you come back to it, is the choice clearer? Another is to ask yourself, “What’s the one college I’d be really sad to turn down?” You can always do the old list of pros and cons, but this method, while helpful, is mostly rational, and making that college decision isn’t always rational.

Here’s my advice for the over-thinker: if you really can’t decide between a bunch of schools you love, stop thinking and just choose one. When the painting crew called me at 9 one night and said they had an unexpected opening early the next morning, I had to rush to the hardware store to choose and buy paint in a 15-minute time frame — no looking at paint strips, no turning them this way and that way, no agonizing over the decision. Faced with a gazillion choices and no time to think, I took a deep breath and chose one called Simply White.

And, guess what? It’s perfect. In my case, thinking too much wasn’t productive. If you’re like me, being forced to choose in a short amount of time might just lead to the best decision, the one that’s from the gut instead of from the brain.

What if you choose the wrong one? My hunch is that you won’t. But even if you do, you’ll find plenty of company: lots of kids transfer after their first year at college — and often it’s the kids who were absolutely certain this was the right school for them. So, try not to sweat this too much. Take a deep breath, choose a school, enjoy your heart skipping a beat in excitement and relief — and just go for it.