Follow your heart to college

Published 10:48 pm Friday, October 4, 2019

Reading about the College Night event that reporter Jimmy LaRoue covered at Lakeland High School on Monday brought back some fond, and some not-so-fond, memories of my own college journey.

It hurts to be reminded that most of this year’s high school seniors were born when I was a senior in high school myself. Yes, it literally hurts — every time I pop a knee simply trying to stand up from a chair or attempt to move my right arm when I wake up in the morning.

As we talked about that story in the office, I realized that I never went to a single college fair when I was in high school. I chose the colleges to which I applied fairly haphazardly.

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Oh, sure, I had it narrowed down quite a bit. Due to financial reasons, I knew it would be a public college in Virginia. I also knew it would be outside of the greater Hampton Roads area, since I didn’t want my parents to be able to just stop by whenever they’d like. And it had to offer an English literature degree, which pretty much every school does.

From the rest of the list, I applied to a couple of colleges for specific reasons, and the other two were pretty random choices. I applied to the University of Virginia because a friend from school, three grades ahead of me, had gone there. I applied to James Madison University because my basketball coach had gone there and played basketball there, and she encouraged me to apply.

I don’t even recall why I applied to Virginia Tech or Longwood University. But I was happy to end up at Longwood, because as it turns out, that was definitely the place for me. As soon as we took a campus tour, I felt like I belonged, and I told my parents before we even got home that I would go to Longwood. Two other things that helped make that decision were that Longwood was offering the most financial aid, and that Longwood had offered me acceptance into its honors program.

I think my mom was more relieved than I was when the decision was finally made. I have a tendency to procrastinate, and she was constantly pushing me to meet deadlines and reading my admissions essays.

After all that, it’s good to see that students are being offered more resources these days, and that they’re taking advantage of them. My process worked out for me, but I can’t say that I recommend it to others. It was far too stressful.

So my advice to college-bound students, from a creaky-kneed old lady like me, is to start early, find out everything you can by going to college fairs and visiting colleges, and have an idea of what you want to do — but don’t be afraid to make changes. That doesn’t count just for your major or your career, either; don’t shy away from choosing a minor to enhance your skills, signing up for an extracurricular activity you never saw yourself doing or applying for that big internship.

Last but not least: don’t let any family or friends pressure you into choosing one school over another. If you don’t follow your heart, you’re sure to end up heartbroken.