As a high schooler, the thought of applying to college always stressed me out, I never knew how to narrow down the many choices of where to go and what to study. It helped me to be able to watch and read about other's experiences with the college process during my own, so I'm happy to share mine with you.
Narrowing Down my College Choices
When I began looking for colleges, I didn't quite know where to start. I got help from my guidance counselor at my high school and we were able to start narrowing down my choices together. One thing I knew that I wanted was a big school with lots of students. I grew up in a very small town; my graduating class was just over 90 people and our whole town's population is only 10,000 (half as much as the undergraduate population at UMass). As much as I enjoyed living in a small town, I was ready for a change. I wanted a place where there were all different kinds of people and things to do.
Another reason I wanted to attend a large university was because I did not know what I wanted to study or do as a career yet. I knew that a large school would give me more opportunities to explore majors and would have many options when I decided on what I wanted to study.
Tours and More Tours
I toured many different schools that I had researched online the summer before my senior year. Tours were able to help me really imagine myself at each college and think about fitting in there. I toured a variety of schools — private and public, small and large — just to be able to get a feel for each type.
One of the schools I toured over this summer was UMass Amherst, I remember walking through the campus and getting a good look at academic buildings, dining halls, the rec center, a mock-dorm and more. The campus seemed huge and a bit overwhelming at the time, but I found something very exciting in walking around and the thought of possibly living here in just a little over a year. After touring UMass, I knew I would definitely apply, although it wasn't my top choice at the time. I still had other favorites and places I thought I may end up.
Applying to College
In the winter, after getting a feel for the 10 different schools that I had toured, I was ready to narrow my list to about nine schools and apply. Some of them had been the ones I had toured, but some had not. All of the schools that I applied to were large with lots of opportunities to explore. I applied to all of my schools regular decision because I had still been pretty indecisive about where to apply and nervous about making these big decisions earlier on in the fall.
If I could go back and do it again, I would have definitely applied to some or all of my schools early action instead. I think that applying regular decision held me back in some ways, and if I had reached out earlier for help finishing my applications I could have been stress-free down the road. Although the college application process is a very stressful time that can make you want to procrastinate and push it to the side, it is better to take control and make decisions earlier to benefit yourself in the end.
Making my Decision
I attended accepted students day at UMass in April of my senior year, and this was the day I fully decided that UMass was the place for me. I remember everyone congregating in the Mullins Center at the beginning of the day, and the UMass band playing for everyone. I remember looking around at how many people there were and automatically feeling excited. After taking tours, hearing talks about different aspects of my school and my major, eating at Franklin dining commons, and of course buying my new UMass sweatshirt from the campus store, I was ready to happily tell my parents that this was where I wanted to go to college.
That day, I interacted with so many friendly and passionate students and professors at UMass, and I could really see myself as a student here. I remember talking to two students as we ate lunch, and they told me how much they enjoyed being there and the awesome opportunities they had had so far. Hearing this helped me know that I was making the right decision.
When I am asked why I chose UMass, I think about that accepted students day and how happy and excited the campus and people made me feel. I knew in that moment that I could find a home here.
I chose UMass because of the many people — including my parents and many of my aunts and uncles — who have absolutely loved and cherished their time here. I have also talked to countless people who share the same experience. I wanted to be able to share the same love and happiness for my school.
Another big reason was the affordability of UMass. As an in-state student the cost would not be nearly as high as other schools I was looking at, and I knew I would be receiving just as good of an education here, without nearly as much student debt afterwards. This was one of the most important factors for me. Two years later, as a sophomore, I am so happy with the decision I made.
Making your college decision may feel like the biggest decision of your life (I know it felt like that for me), but now I feel as though, in the end you will be happy wherever you end up. Just stay calm and go where you think you will feel happiest and most comfortable. Because being happy and comfortable at a school is what will lead you to succeed.