Has the college search got you tied in knots of anxiety? Is your senior worried about what college they’ll get into? Do they think their life is going to be “ruined” if they don’t get into their first choice university? Are they worried about getting into a “good” college? Then this advice from college admissions counselor Jim Jump is for them. It’s so healthy to think of the college search as a process of learning, instead of a competition. The college admissions process is a journey, not a destination.
When I reached out to some college admissions experts for their top advice for seniors applying to college, Jim Jump graciously replied with a beautifully thought out process. There was no way I could do it justice in a limited amount of space. So I decided to publish his college search advice in full, here in its own post.
The best college search advice – it’s a journey
The college search as a journey of self-discovery
1. The college search is only partly about deciding where to go to college. It is more a journey of self-discovery or discernment, where you figure out who you are, what you care about, and what you want from your life. The journey is ultimately more important than the destination.
The college search should be seen as an exciting opportunity
2. For most of us choosing a college qualifies as our first “adult” decision, our first opportunity to make decisions about our future. You may find that intimidating, but it’s also something you should be excited about and ready for.
The myth of falling in love with a school during your college search
3. One of the myths about the college admissions process is that you will fall in love with a school. That happens to some people, but it is far from universal. You will almost certainly make a better decision if you are not blinded by love but weigh the pros and cons of each college you are considering.
Fit is more important than the prestige in the college search
4. The value of college lies in the experience you have rather than the name on the diploma. Choose fit over prestige.
Accept the parts of the college search you can’t control
5. In the admissions process there are things you can control and other things you can’t control. You control how much time and energy you devote to the process, especially the research phase to which most students give too little attention. You control where you choose to apply, and how well you articulate who you are and what you care about through the application. But you don’t control the competition for admission or your chances of being admitted at any particular institution. Focus on and worry about the things you can control rather than those you can’t.
Enjoy the process of the college search
6. Returning to the metaphor of the college search as journey, on any journey there are two important considerations:
Know the destination—you don’t want to miss your exit or stop.
Don’t be so focused on the destination that you miss the scenery.
More about Jim Jump
Jim Jump is a college counselor and past president of the National Association for College Admission Counseling. He was previously a college admissions officer, philosophy professor, and college women’s basketball coach. He is often quoted, such as in this article about college admissions in the New York Times.
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