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Tuesday, June 25, 2024
The Observer

How to choose your college

As I prepare to venture into a new chapter in my life, tens of thousands of students across the world are currently preparing to enter the very life stage that I am on the cusp of leaving: college.

The college admissions process can be overwhelming and stressful, especially if you do not have useful insight and information left behind by an elder sibling who has already trodden down the same path. Beyond the demands of meticulously crafting picture-perfect essays and supplements, catering your resume to satisfy the specific expectations of competitive dream schools and preparing tirelessly for brief meetings with recruiters and students that are likely to forget who you are after closing the Zoom window, choosing — in and of itself — is as burdensome a task as well. 

Clearly, where you go to college and what you study once you get there are two of the most important decisions a high school senior can make. Where you go to school shapes the nature of your college experience as a whole. My cousin, who studies in Columbia, lives a much different life than I do in northern Indiana. The same applies to my friends scattered across state schools in the South and those that chose to go to school in Southern California.

Your major is crucial as well. As a finance major, I am delighted to not have to worry about endless labs the way so many of my friends in STEM do, and I’m able to avoid the daunting task of drafting a long thesis as well. In short, these decisions matter, and they are indubitably consequential with regard to the path we chart for the remainder of our lives. What’s the best way to go about and choose them? 

When determining where to go to school, certain factors are indispensable. Location, cost, major availability, school size and resources are all important elements that should weigh in on where you go to school. I was fairly intimidated by the prospect of ending up in a big city by myself at the ripe age of seventeen, so I preferred to settle for quainter college towns over urban campuses in sprawling cities. When boiling down to my final choices, I also whittled down the list of schools based on cost. As a prospective business student, I wanted to go to a school where the business school was robust and filled with encouraging prospective networking opportunities. Furthermore, having graduated as one of around sixty students, I did not want to end up as another brick in the wall but have the ability to stand out within my future university community. Lastly, I dove into the strength of each school’s alumni network, graduating outcomes and other metrics that offered a little more insight into what I was getting into. 

In the spring of 2019, I was down to my final three choices: Notre Dame, Purdue and Marquette. I was pretty indecisive and kept switching back and forth between each school on a daily basis.

Finally, I decided to add an additional factor into my decision-making process: vox populi.

To help me reach a final decision, I took on the task of consulting everyone whose opinion mattered to me in April 2019. I asked all of my teachers (current and former), my school administrators, my friends, my relatives and just about anyone else who came to mind.

I asked them a simple question: “Which of these schools would you pick if it were up to you?”

I tallied their responses, and after a two-week-long period of sneakily interviewing and tabulating their choices, the results were in. Notre Dame won, in a landslide. I don’t remember the exact figures, but over three-fourths of the votes cast were in favor of me shipping up to the then-mythical land known as South Bend, Indiana.

And so, I did. 

Notre Dame turned out to be a wonderful fit for me. Over the years, I think I can say I did pretty well for myself and made the most out of the opportunities provided whether they be social, academic or extracurricular. Although my final decision was settled by unconventional means, the process in itself was nothing but a ratification of a decision already subconsciously made. I wanted to go to Notre Dame but was somehow worried doing so would have been the wrong choice. Having others “choose” for me helped me settle anxieties that were not worth dwelling on. 

Although the overwhelming majority of The Observer readers are already in college, this goes out to those who are not and are still in the process of choosing where to go in the next four years.

To quote the Bible: “Be not Afraid.” Things tend to work out in the long term. 

Pablo Lacayo is a senior at Notre Dame, majoring in finance while minoring in Chinese. He enjoys discussing current affairs, giving out bowl plates at the dining hall, walking around the lakes and karaoke. You can reach him at placayo@nd.edu.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.