College: making freedom a reality

Vincent Stigliani/Editor-in-Chief

I used to always imagine that my senior year would be a relaxing time of little work, the distracting bug of senioritis nipping my butt as I waited in this long limbo between high school and college. It turns out I was quite wrong in my previous thoughts, but I am grateful that my vision was never realized.

It began last summer, when I was stranded in a town of no more than 300 people (and fewer than five between the ages of 10 and 20) in upstate New York. To stifle my boredom, I began an informal college search to explore my post-high school options. The excitement grew as the realization hit me: I have more control than ever before with the next four years of my life. By the time the school year came around, my research whittled a list down to six colleges that I found attractive.

Outside of school, the subsequent semester was spent filling out long, arduous applications, writing essays, re-writing essays, creating and expanding a resume, pondering what I wanted to do with my life and writing more essays. Then I sent off my applications and waited three months in purgatory for the decisions. Spring came around, and judgment day finally approached. The news was mixed; I was rejected from three (including one of my top two choices) and accepted at the other three (including my other top choice). At the time, it was bitter-sweet, but now I am very happy with my decision. Additionally, upon further reflection I realized there were many more, slightly less tangible gains from the experience.

First moral of the story: you can’t be accepted where you want if you don’t apply. Few students really know all of there options after high school. I became ambitious, maybe even naively so, because I realized that, for the first time in my life, I had near-total autonomy for my future and I wanted to make the most of the opportunity. Motivated and excited, I threw myself into the applications and sent them out to a wide selection of schools. And chance dictated that I would at least get into one. It really has given me an increased appreciation of risk-taking.

Another valuable lesson this past year has taught me is the ever-important skill of self-advertisement. The gist of the application process entailed convincing a board that out of the thousands of applicants, I was a worthy one, deserving of their investment. I succeeded, and I failed, but nearly as important is the experience I gained in doing so. The ability to pitch yourself, clearly stand out from the crowd, is necessary for success in so many facets of life (from climbing the corporate ladder to dating to playing politics), and this was a wonderful opportunity to hone it.

In a sense, the experience also facilitated much-needed introspection. I had to seriously think about what genuinely interests me, where and how I want to live for the foreseeable future or whether I prefer a small, close-knit feel over a large, opportunity-filled environment. Previously I had not put much thought into my future beyond high school, but this autonomy certainly encouraged it.

So with the experience behind me, fellow Cedar Falls High School students, I encourage you all to take control and challenge your complacency, exploring your options beyond the well-treaded educational path.

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