Teens Need to Own Their College Decision. It’s Not Up to Their Parents

August is here, which means the Common App is out, so just as we’re sending kids off to college, high school seniors are thinking about where they want to see themselves in just about a year on their very own college move-in a day. However, getting to that point isn’t always smooth sailing and seniors will face some of their most challenging decisions as they enter adulthood.

mom and daughter
I chose my own path. (via Izzy Tabs)

My college decision process wasn’t so easy, it almost came down to a coin flip-the University of Michigan or Syracuse University. I never had the opportunity not to fall in love with Michigan. Within hours of being born, my parents dressed me in a maize and blue onesie and beanie. As a child, my father forced me to sit by his side every Saturday in the Fall to watch Michigan football games, and by age three I knew all the words to “The Victors.”

I thought the University of Michigan was my destiny

Michigan was in my blood. It was practically the only college I knew anything about, besides the forbidden Ohio State University- which I would never dare think about applying to. I always knew the University of Michigan was a prestigious and competitive institution, but the thought of not being accepted never crossed my mind. That I would have a future there, is something my parents constantly instilled in my brain.

It wasn’t until my junior year of high school when reality hit and my guidance counselor politely hinted that I should expand my options and look at other schools. I remember in that moment my heart sank. Blue was in my blood. I didn’t want to look at other schools.

Would my parents still accept me if I looked beyond Ann Arbor? Michigan was my destiny, I only wanted to spend my Saturdays in the Big House, live in the Alice Loyd dorm my freshman year just like my parents had, and join the sorority where my mom found her best friends. Even though I really knew nothing about the college application process, as a child, I had always envisioned applying to only one school and that would be Michigan.

In my college search I found there was more than Maize and Blue

However as the years went on and I attended college fairs, information sessions with the local recruiters and started to do research on different schools, I discovered there was so much more out there than just Maize and Blue.

I picked out a bunch of schools that interested me. I knew what I wanted out of a college experience, I knew what I wanted to study, and I knew I certainly wanted to be far from home. Many of the schools on my list shared the same qualities-big schools with sports teams. I knew with any school I chose would give me a similar experience.

Something I hadn’t considered was the quality of my education. I knew I wanted to go into journalism, which was great in the sense that it allowed me to hone in on a specific set of schools, however it was a huge con for Michigan.

When researching schools with journalism programs, Syracuse’s Newhouse School of Public Communications stood out to me. So, in a huge turning point for me my mom took me up to Syracuse University for a campus visit and a tour of Newhouse. It was the first time I stepped onto a college campus that wasn’t University of Michigan.

The Dome was nothing compared to the Big House and Marshall Street definitely wasn’t State Street, and I was surrounded by a sea of orange, not maize and blue. But when I walked into Newhouse’s Digital New Center, I knew I was home. At the Newhouse information session, Dean Branham stated that what sets Newhouse apart from other colleges is that its curriculum focuses on practical training.

As soon as I stepped into Newhouse I knew it was my place

As I toured Newhouse, I was impressed by the state-of-the-art technology and the exceedingly positive vibe coming from the faculty and students. I saw students working together to produce a news program, and I knew this is the type of collegiate hands-on, collaborative experience that I needed. I thought that this could be my start of something new.

Up until that visit I was dependent on my parents’ legacy to drive my college decision, instead of asking myself what I wanted. After my visit to Syracuse I felt more confident about taking control of my future instead of relying on the past. So when November came around, I took a giant leap of faith abandoning the Michigan Dream, and clicked submit “Early Decision” for Syracuse University. That meant that if I got in, I was going.

It wasn’t an easy decision as I stared at the Michigan Flag waving outside my house while completing the Common App, but at the end of the day and now 3 years later as I enter my senior year I couldn’t prouder that I traded my Wolverine Pride for Syracuse Orange spirit.

For the first time, I thought about my personal goals

My college decision process was the first time in my life I challenged myself to think about my personal goals and how I envision my future. I think it is so important for high school students, to attack and enter the college decision process as their independent journey.

Your parents’ influence is hard to dismiss but you only get one undergraduate college experience, so make it your own! If their dream school is your dream school, so be it, but it is perfectly ok (and in my opinion to be encouraged) to follow your own path.

Enjoy Reading:

What College Students Want Parents to Know About Drop Off  Here is what your student wants you to know about drop-off.

6 Reasons Why Moms Cry When They Leave Their Kids at College Gorgeous writing by Helene Wingens that explains these intense feelings when we say goodbye.

About Izzy Tabs

Izzy Tabs is a rising senior from North Caldwell, NJ studying Broadcast and Digital Journalism with a minor in Sport Management at Syracuse University. While on campus, Izzy is involved with many student media organizations such as her school’s student run television station Citrus TV and she is also an online editor and writer for the sports department at WAER Radio Station-an NPR affiliate. Izzy hopes to one day pursue a career in sports journalism and documentary filmmaking.

Read more posts by Izzy

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