Four days. In four days, a mere 96 hours, your college “search” will be finished (if you just screamed “ahhhh,” was it relief or stress that prompted you to reenact the Edward Munch painting?). At long last, you will have an answer to the question that has dogged you for the last 18 months of your life (if not longer): “So where are you going to college?”
Of course, I am not an impartial observer and I hope your answer is a resounding “Tufts!” But I wasn’t born yesterday. I know that most of you (I’m speaking to our accepted students) have a few, if not several, offers from some fine institutions that you are entertaining and sorting and weighing. But like too many invitations to the prom, too many offers of admission muddy the decision-making.
Maybe that’s the way it ought to be. Making your final choice is important: your alma mater becomes part of your identity. It will occupy some prime real estate on your resume. You will meet many of your dearest friends, if not your spouse or partner, at this place. (Sorry, that was another Munch moment, wasn’t it?) The decision is not irreversible but it does have consequences. (Damn, you’re thinking, this dean is making my blood pressure spike!)
Relax. I’ve been doing this for almost 20 years (an ugly truth on my end—I’m old–which explains why I had no idea why people were so excited that Ludacris was the featured artist at Saturday’s Spring Fling). I’ve seen nearly a generation of college seniors successfully negotiate the emotional rapids that block the finish line to your college search. So here’s my “official” wisdom about how you should make your pick: follow your gut.
I know. After the marathon that is the college search that advice sounds too easy, almost illegitimate. Follow my gut? Yes. Ignore the rankings and guidebooks and blogs and cafeteria buzz and sea of college sweatshirts that grace the senior lounge (if you have one) at your high school. This is your choice. No one else can make it for you.
Here’s why your “gut” counts at this final moment. You have already done your homework; the analytical dimension of your search narrowed your list to the group of schools to which you filed an application. And more analytical work on the college end (translation: lots of reading and debating all winter) sorted your list into the sub-group (or, if you’re lucky, the full group) that offered you admission a few weeks ago. If you are like most students who get accepted to Tufts—and there’s no reason to think you are not—you were admitted to an average of five to seven places. I’d bet those places are wonderful colleges, albeit with different personalities and characteristics, so your gut instinct counts as much as your analytical assessment at this point.
Don’t worry if you can’t explain it to the rest of us. At our Open House for accepted students last Friday, one boy told me he was “mesmerized” by Tufts. (That verb is as strong as it gets in college decision-making.) His father asked him to explain it but he just shrugged. “It’s just a feeling.” It’s an important feeling and one that’s worth honoring. Curiously, a week later, he’s yet to enroll. Which leads me to my second point: Don’t over-think it. Your inner voice is whispering in your ear if you stop and listen to it.
“Tufts,” it says. (Hey, you can’t blame a dean for trying to influence the outcome…)