The college process. The dreaded yet exciting part of every high school junior and senior’s life. As a junior, I spent hours upon hours studying for the SAT. The PSAT, SAT subject tests, and AP tests had their time, too. As spring break approached, I was ready to start thinking about what schools I wanted to tour. It was time to research. I knew I wanted something in warm weather, but that was about it. With no idea of my potential major, I had a hard time narrowing down my options by strong departments. Instead, I focused on size, location, academic integrity, and a few other characteristics that I cared about. I procrastinated my homework by googling college after college. I think I’ve looked at too many “fast facts” pages on college websites, but they helped me decide that southern California was my ideal location. I also used my parents and college counselor as resources, asking them their opinions on which schools could potentially be a good fit for me.
A few weeks later, my dad and I boarded a plane to San Diego. With seven tours on the itinerary, we had a long five days in San Diego and Los Angeles ahead of us. On each tour, I kept a mental list of all the things that stood out to me and all of the things that I didn’t like. When the tour was over, my dad and I would “debrief” usually over a meal in the main student cafeteria. I valued his opinion on the schools just as much as I valued my own. I kept a journal of my opinions on every school I visited (and continued to use the journal on the few other college tours I attended later). I made sure to take every brochure that the admissions office displayed. I probably went a little overboard with that, especially considering that I ended up recycling most of the brochures. The information sessions, tour guides, and journal entries all helped me consider my options and form opinions, but the most important piece of research was my immediate reaction to the campus. When I walked onto the campus, I made a note of how I felt. Could I see myself here? Did I like the people that I encountered? These subjective facts are what I thought about the most. I soon recognized that I was hooked on a couple of the schools that I saw, and I was especially hooked on going to school in L.A. The California trip ended with me feeling like I knew a lot more about what I wanted.
I still had a long time until I had to decide where I wanted to apply so why not see a few more schools? My college counselor recommended Emory University. Once again, my Calc homework could wait—I had to google this school that I knew nothing about. The website’s information seemed assuring. I also talked to some people from my high school who are at Emory and got their opinion on the transition, similarities to my high school, and overall experience. Everything sounded like something I might like, so I registered for a tour, and a few weeks later, my mom and I were standing in the Atlanta airport waiting for a taxi to take us to Emory. The day whizzed by. Paying attention to my initial feelings, I took in everything I saw. I ended the day feeling excited and confused—I liked Emory more than I liked the California schools, but I loved California. However, my gut reaction told me that Emory was the school to which I should apply ED. And that’s exactly what I did.