If you’re set to attend your third-choice college this fall, you may be feeling a bit bummed out—kind of like that time you found out Harry Potter wasn’t non-fiction, or realized you’d have to go to prom with your second cousin once removed. The old people in your life are probably assuring you that after you graduate, no one will care where you went to college. While you may find this hard to believe, it's true. Going to college is great not because of WHERE you go, but HOW you go. It’s all about immersing yourself in the experience and coming out a better person (with a thin piece of paper that qualifies you to do something). So how can you make the most of your back-up-back-up college? Like this:
Get friendly. When you fantasized about going to your first-choice school, you saw yourself hanging out on the green quad and waxing philosophical with your bespectacled, intellectual friends. Now that you’re going to a state school, you’re worried you might not find a set of bookish friends with excellent taste in literature. The good news: nerds go to school everywhere. So do cheerleaders, athletes, musicians, skanks, etc. Be assured that you will find a group of people just like you who will accept you. Even better, you may become friends with different types of people—art majors, future brain surgeons, and the guy who sleeps on the 4th floor of the journalism school. To get the most out of college, seek out both people who have similar interests, and people you may have overlooked in the past. You'll forge lifelong bonds, or at the very least, create entertaining stories.
Get academic. Your first-choice school has the number one journalism program in the country. Your third-choice school doesn't even appear in that giant book you've been consulting as if it's the Bible. But guess what? None of your future employers will check to see where your back-up-back-up falls in the rankings. And chances are strong that you won't even wind up majoring in whatever it is you're in love with at age eighteen. During your first year, fill your schedule with the kinds of classes that tickle your brain. If you’ve always wondered what it would be like to take a philosophy class, then do it. If flexing your intellectual muscles is super important, seek out info on the honors program. You might not be at your first choice college, but you should make the most of this time. Plus, if you really want to transfer in a year or two, honors certainly won’t hurt.
Get busy. Sure, college is all about attending classes, furiously writing papers into the wee hours of the morning, and locking yourself in a cage at the library to memorize various things you’ll forget in six months. But it’s also about finding out what you like, and having fun. Don’t just float from class to class to library to home. It’s imperative that you do something, because that’s really where you’ll learn things. Need to laugh about how crappy you think your school is? Join an Improv Troupe. Hate sports? Go to the football games anyway. Like writing? Join the school paper and make out with everyone. Play an instrument? Put up fliers and look to start a band. Low on cash? Get a job that allows you to interact with students—whether it’s at a coffee shop, the student union, or the sports arena. You will remember these experiences fondly, and maybe lay the groundwork for your future career.
Not going to your first choice? How are you coping?
Related post: How to Make the Most Out of Community College