Dear Harlan: I’m about to start my second semester in my senior year of high school, and I have a question. I have two top colleges. My top one is the college I’ve been expecting to go to my entire life. But I’m starting to reconsider because it just didn’t really live up to my expectations, which were, admittedly, very high. My family kind of expects me to go there if I get in. But I went to another college on a tour that is closer to home (it’s a three-hour drive as opposed to seven), and I really liked it. The people were friendly, the dorms were nice, and their academics are pretty good, although not nearly as good as school No. 1. I don’t really know what to do, and I would love to have your input. Thanks.
— Second Thoughts
Dear Second Thoughts: This is a gift. Dream schools tend to be more about being wanted and less about what you want. Focus on people, places and patience. Identify three places on any campus where you see yourself finding connection, community and meaningful experiences. Places are where you’re going to sweat, play, pray, live, learn, lead, love and work. Reach out to students on both campuses and ask them some of the following questions: 1. Why did you choose the school and what are some other schools that you were considering? 2. Where are the places on campus where you’ve made your closest friends? 3. What was your most uncomfortable experience your first year and how did you get through it? 4. What’s been your most meaningful experience on campus and what did you learn from it? 5. What advice do you have for someone who is going through this process? 6. Can I reach out to you if I have more questions? Once you get real info from real students, you’ll have real answers. Then you can turn any school into a dream school.