When I was a senior in high school I wanted to apply EVERYWHERE. I was determined to find the college that was the best fit for me, which meant exploring every possible option. As most of you know I landed on Clemson University and am now about to graduate (August 2020)! I’ve been reflecting on ‘why’ I chose Clemson, what really made it feel right to me? Because the truth is I’ve changed so much and if I were to go through the ‘decision day’ process again today I would probably consider entirely different things.
I wouldn’t undo any part of my decision to choose Clemson, I think it was the perfect fit for me. But I do think that four years is a long time during which you change a lot as a person. In my opinion you should go to a school that will push you to do that to the fullest. I’m thankful that Clemson, and my experiences here, was able to shape me as a person and show me who I really want to be. I’m going to dive into some reasons why I chose Clemson, and some things I wish I would’ve considered a little bit more when I chose my school. But first I wanted to give a little disclaimer:
If you’re reading this as a high school student, just remember that everyone’s situation and priorities are different. It’s easy to compare your experience to your friends but I’m telling you now it does NOT matter. A lot of people will give you their opinion, but trust your gut – you’re the one who has to live with this decision! You’re going to be attending the classes, living in the dorm, eating in the dining hall… you get the idea. So make sure it’s about you and your situation only.
So why did I choose Clemson?
I could give you a concrete list of reasons I liked Clemson. It’s warm! It’s a big school! They have a great football team! Which to be fair, are all surefire reasons I picked Clemson, but at the end of the day they weren’t the reason I picked Clemson.
For the longest time my mind was made up: I would go to College of Charleston and study biology. I wanted to go to medical school after I graduated and become a doctor (try not to laugh). I was enchanted by the city of Charleston, and I even got accepted into their honors college. I applied to a long list of other schools: SMU, Ohio State, Tennessee, Illinois, South Carolina… and Clemson. I was so tough on every other school, because absolutely no one could live up to Charleston. I had made up my mind and it wasn’t going to change.
But, I must have underestimated the little orange and purple school about 4 hours from the city I wanted to be in *so* badly. I hadn’t visited yet and I had already written it off. I know how cheesy this is going to sound, but when I finally did visit Clemson it was the first time I saw myself at a school. Everyone was so happy and welcoming, it was safe, the campus was beautiful and I felt at home. I’d never lived anywhere besides Columbus Ohio and I felt such a strong connection to this place immediately!
But as I did back then, I doubted my gut instinct and stuck to my ‘plan’. Such a boring thing to do isn’t it? As time went on my lovely plan stopped feeling so set in stone. I started letting my mind wander to the possibility of being somewhere else. At the very last minute I revisited both Charleston and Clemson and made my decision. After my tour I decided that it was going to be Clemson, it just had to be. I wasn’t totally sure why then, but I think I know now.
Clemson was very familiar for me, I grew up going to Ohio State football games in the Fall, and basketball games all Winter. I wanted to have that same spirit in the college I chose to go to. I also loved the focus on academics. Although students will joke that they aren’t, people at Clemson are freaking smart. I still wonder if my application might have slipped through the cracks somehow, especially after my tragic first semester drowning in science classes. Another thing I loved was the social scene, which was a big consideration for me at the time. I liked that there was a decent sized Greek presence because I knew I wanted to join a sorority.
Not to get cheesy, but reflecting back on the past four years the real reason I chose Clemson on a whim was so much more than the things I listed above. The people I’ve met, the things I’ve discovered about myself, and the time I’ve been able to spend away from the home I grew up in, in a completely different culture has changed everything. I met my amazing boyfriend and some of my best friends here. I’ve been able to take classes here that have taught me so much more than key words from a textbook. I really do believe everything happens for a reason (yes I’m that girl, don’t come for me), so if you have that feeling go after it!
So, what should I think about when choosing my college?
There are so many important factors to consider when choosing a school. Money, location, size… All of these and more are so important! But you already know this, and chances are you’ve already narrowed down your list based on that information. There are so many blog posts and articles out there that can tell you the basics (here is one I like), but as someone who has *just* done the whole college thing and is about to enter the real world I have some things I wish I would have prioritized, along with the basics like where and how much.
Here are the two major questions I wish I would’ve asked before I chose my school:
Can I grow and change here?
Even if you think you have a plan for your future, odds are things will change. And this is NOT a bad thing! How can you possibly know for sure that you want to do a job/study a certain subject without actually doing it? If you start to go down a certain path at your school and change your mind completely, is there room for that? Are there other options for majors? How about clubs or sports if you don’t love your roommate or hall mates? Making sure there are options for growth and change that you can see yourself doing is so key.
Where do I see myself after college? Does my school offer opportunity in that place?
Maybe it’s just the soon to be post grad in me, but I think this is SUPER important! If you know you want to be in a certain area forever, go to school there! I cannot stress this enough. It will open up tons of opportunities locally that you wouldn’t have otherwise. For example here at Clemson we have so many connections to companies in Charlotte, Atlanta, and all over North and South Carolina. If you know for sure that living in LA after college is a non-negotiable, you may want to see if you can find a school on the west coast. Of course it will work out no matter what, and nowadays with LinkedIn it’s easier than ever to access alumni all over. But I still think it’s something that a lot of people don’t talk about enough – you know the whole what happens after college thing.
Hopefully my story + my tips help you get a better grasp on choosing your college! And if you’re a sentimental college senior, apologies in advance for adding to the post-grad blues. Trust me I’m right there with you. College is such a fun time, if you’re headed there soon you’re going to love it. If you’re currently in college cherish it. And if you’re about to graduate like me, follow along on my journey into the real world starting this August 🙂