It’s that time of year again. All of the seniors are rushing to finish college applications, only to realize they have even more to do once they are done. Applying to college seems like a daunting task, and, frankly, it is. How you fare under this pressure will seemingly determine the direction of the rest of your life. Don’t mess up, you constantly think to yourself. Everything must be perfect.
All of this stress makes the first semester of senior year the most dreaded time of any high schooler’s life, but it should not have to be that way. Yes, applying to college is one of the biggest steps you’ve taken in your life so far, but it will not be the most important. What many people fail to realize is that their choice of university for an undergraduate degree is more of a first step rather than a giant leap forward. This is where you get a feel for what field you might want to go into, not where you determine if you will end up unemployed and on the streets.
Realize that when you are being reviewed by a potential employer, they could not care less about what school you went to for your undergraduate degree. What they do care about is your experience studying and researching in that particular field. Where you went as an undergraduate does matter when you are applying to a graduate program, but even then they look more at whether you are interested in a specific field, and whether you have sufficient knowledge on that topic than at the name of your school. According to the US Bureau of the Census, 62% of college graduates in America work in a job requiring a college degree, however, only 27% of these college graduates work in a job related to their major. Rather, these people have technical knowledge in these fields but did not necessarily have a prior formal education in them.
For example, someone who barely got by in an undergrad program at a more challenging school like MIT might be passed up for a high-achieving student from a less rigorous state school, if the MIT student did not do many external projects or extracurriculars related to their field. In fact, many people who realize this use it to their long-term advantage. There are many examples of very capable freshman applicants opting to attend community college for their undergrad, and then going on to get a Ph.D. at a prestigious university and landing a very successful career. This article by College Express does an excellent job of laying out exactly what these graduate programs do look for.
Essentially, what I’m trying to say is CALM DOWN. It’s not worth sacrificing your happiness or mental health just to get into a “better college,” only to realize in the end that it didn’t matter. So instead of stressing out about writing ten essays in pursuit of the “Perfect Common App,” just relax, and remind yourself that the college you’ll eventually attend won’t matter as much as how you utilize your time there.