1. I gave my second choice school a whole-hearted chance.
I constantly visited the campus, continuously checked their website, and asked my friends who had labeled it their number one choice what they admired so much about it. I tried to get the full experience of being there before I called it home. I looked at where I would live, how I would eat, who I would room with, what organizations/clubs I would join, how they would help me be the person I wanted to be after college. Those were all important questions to me.
2. I looked at my other option: community college.
I'll be completely honest, to me community college was a reject school. But, I didn't think as terrible of it as some other people did. I had heard many success stories come out of community college. People, just like me, has gone on to become engineers, doctors, and political figures. I visited the numerous campus' around Miami and finally decided to focus on the downtown campus. Simply because it didn't feel like I was being punished. It was right on the water and walking distance from some of Miami's best points. I spoke with one of the advisors, told her my plans of transferring to a big university after my AA, asked for her sincere and honest advice. I also looked at the organizations/clubs.
3. Living at home for another two years.
I've always been a very independent person. I rarely felt anything held me back not my parents, not my friends, not my personality. I'm an only child so I was constantly experiencing things alone. I seldom felt lonely or bored. I knew if I stayed in community college I would be living at home. Something people were so excited to leave after high school. To me it wasn't exactly on the top 5 exciting college moments. I did want to experience life in another place but I didn't want to leave home. I loved my moms cooking, I loved my room, I loved my car. All things that would go away if I left. Of course, my parents are the kind who want to know everything about my life and can be overwhelming. But I was far from being on the edge with them. They teach me a lot and two more years with them wasn't going to throw me over the edge.
4. The friend factor.
Once college started I knew all the people who made Miami so amazing would be gone and off to their respective new homes. I wondered if it would all be just as amazing without them and if I would make an effort to make just as amazing? I decided I would. I knew it wouldn't be easy at first. But there are so many college students in Miami, I'm quite outgoing, I knew I could easily make at least a couple of friends.
All I ever hear college grads complain about are their college loans. I'm not just talking about people in their 20's. I'm also talking about parents who are still paying their four years of college loans. Community college was basically paying me to attend. While, my second choice school was giving me everything except all my living expenses, which were quite a lot (and having money to eat is important). Yes, I probably would've had to take out loans had I been accepted to my first option school but I would be doing it to fulfill a dream. Rather than doing it for a school I had hardly even thought of before.
Lastly, I went to the experts. Neither of my parents had a clue how complicated the college process was and as much as they wanted to help they simply didn't know. The college advisor told me the coursework of the first two years were the same wherever I went. I had never taken AP's in high school so I wasn't significantly ahead on my college work. I also had no clue what I wanted to study. I was afraid to be forced into a decision and then waste money and time on classes I wasn't going to need for graduation.
7. What would I do differently if I stayed?
There comes a time when you need to look within and ask yourself what it is you want. It's not easy and it doesn't happen in a day. Ask yourself the things you don't like, the things you still like but want to do differently, the things you want do more of. In high school we live in a bubble of school. Everything is there. Your friends, food, fun, education. I knew if I stayed and wanted to succeed I had to change some things that clearly didn't work for me the first time around. I had to become a better candidate. Would I get a job? Would I join clubs/organizations? Would I volunteer at the college's events? Would I focus more on my blog? Would I focus more on exercising? Once I answered all those questions, I wrote them down in case I ever forgot them.
8. Completely eliminate an option
Choosing the right college for you is all about where you think you'll achieve the most. Wherever I decided to go I knew I would do three things: focus on my grades, get involved, gain field experience. I also knew I would do my absolute best at those things in both locations. Now, every time I visited my second choice school I tried to forget that I hadn't been accepted to my first choice because I was going to choose out vengeance rather than liking. I knew it wasn't for me because no matter how many times I went I never found the fun, easy-going experience I was looking for. I had applied to a billion scholarships to fill my living expenses and nothing. I definitely knew I didn't want to take out loans. So I decided to eliminate my second choice school as an option.
9. Apply to community college.
I knew I had to run toward my decision before I turned around so I did. I met with an advisor with a list of the schools I was planning on transferring to after my two years and their degree requirements. We made a plan for the fastest way to fit all the necessary coursework for admission after my AA. I looked at my club/organization options. I signed up for the school newspaper team. I volunteered for their annual book fair events. I looked for jobs or internships that were accepting college freshman applications. I spoke with career advisors about my resume. And I was all clear for my next two years.
10. Be proud of your decision.
I won't lie and say there aren't days I wonder if I made the right decision. But I will say I'm proud of my decision to have the strength to choose the best path rather than the selfish path. Choosing community college has empowered me to never settle for your second option. I truly feel the possibilities are unless. I once had a dream of a small Florida school but now I know I can go anywhere I wish after my AA. I'm never worried I won't have enough money for lunch because the school has granted me a scholarship that exceeds my basic tuition necessities. The relationships with my family members have grown more in this one year than in the past 17 years. I'm experiencing Miami in a way I never had the time to when I was in high school. I'm constantly inspired my it's innovation and the possibilities it has to offer.
To sum it all up, base your college decision on what you feel will lead you to the endless possibilities without leaving you in a debt you will have to spend your entire life paying off. Remember success looks a lot like a maze rather than a straight line. Don't feel like you need to follow the crowd or be traditional. Don't be afraid to make the "wrong" decision. This is your journey, the wheel is in your hands, and whichever route you choose to steer is okay because it came from your own judgement.