The search to find the "perfect" college is daunting, to say the least. It seems like everyone has their own opinion on what will give you the best college experience. Now that I have finally finished the college application process, I have to say that there is no "perfect" college. Every school has something different to offer. Someone's favorite parts of one college may be weaknesses for another person. It's overwhelming to be inundated with so many options, and I remember feeling scared as I scoured through a seemingly infinite number of college websites.
For me, the best way to narrow down my list was to figure out which elements I found important in a school. I go to a large public high school, so I wanted a college with a larger student population — at least more than 7,000 undergraduates. Growing up, I was always passionate about theatre and knew that it was something I wanted to study in college. Yet, I also had a love for psychology, education and French. Oftentimes, college performing arts programs require that you only focus on that course of study, leaving no room for other classes, much less a second major. I don't know for sure whether theatre is the career I want to pursue after college, so it was imperative to me that I end up at a school that will allow me to double major in theatre and psychology. Therefore, I was mainly looking at schools that offered a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in theatre — a more general degree program — as opposed to a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) — a specialized, intensive focus. I narrowed down my list to 12 schools, a mix of private and public universities. While I definitely had many schools that appealed to me, Northwestern University consistently matched with all the elements I deemed necessary.
In the spring of my junior year, I began my college tours. By the time I sent in my applications, I had toured seven schools. Many of my friends toured 15 or even 20 schools, but going in with a clearer idea of what I wanted in a general campus atmosphere helped narrow my touring list. During each tour, I kept a pro/con list in the notes app on my phone. The more tours I went on, the more they started to melt together. The notes were a huge help when I was trying to finalize my applications and for the essays asking why I wanted to go to their schools. Some people say that you'll just know your "perfect" college when you visit, but I never experienced that "click" telling me that this school was the only one for me. In fact, I loved almost every school I visited, but Northwestern continuously stood out to me due to the strong theatre program and the ability to double major. My Northwestern tour guide was both an acting and economics major, and she was headed into a career in finance. She told me that the drama professors encouraged students to focus on different interests other than theatre to broaden their perspectives and then helped them intertwine the other interests with their theatre studies.
When it came time to begin filling out my applications senior year, I had to decide whether or not to apply for Early Decision at Northwestern. As much as I loved Northwestern, the idea of signing a contract stating that if accepted, I would be attending was intimidating, especially for an indecisive person like myself. But when I really thought about it, I knew that if I got into every school I applied to, Northwestern would still be my first choice. The college admissions process can be brutal and there seems to be no rhyme or reason for acceptances or rejections sometimes, so applying Early Decision gave me my best shot at getting into Northwestern. When I submitted my application, I expected to feel something big, but I just breathed a sigh of relief that it was in, and waited until December for my decision.
Decision day finally came on December 13. I nervously opened my portal and clicked on the letter as the words "Welcome to the Class of 2024" spread across my screen. Just like that, my college admissions process was over. To the student reading this who is still in the thick of it, there is no perfect path to college. It won't always go exactly how you planned it, but everyone I know has found their place and happiness in the end.
About the writer: Alexa Goldstein is a high school senior in Maryland, who will be attending Northwestern University this fall as a theatre and psychology major.
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