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Sunday, December 10, 2023


College is what you make of it

Jose Gonzalez-Campelo/The Cougar

The first month of college can be a whirlwind of different emotions. As you take in all the changes, you’ll likely be filled with everything from fear to excitement and homesickness. 

But for some students, regret will likely rise to the top of the emotional heap. Maybe you didn’t get into your college of choice, you’re returning to college later in life or you had your path disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

If college already doesn’t look like what you’ve dreamed of for years, it can be easy to let the regret consume you. But whether you’re an 18-year-old freshman or an 80-year-old transfer, this is not the end. College is what you make of it.

The truth is, college is more competitive than it used to be. Even if your parents got into your dream school, competition at selective schools in 2023 is at a record high. You’re hardly the only student that didn’t get into their top choice. 

For that matter, some studies have suggested that it matters more that you went to college at all than where you went in the long run. With that in mind, isn’t it better to look for the good in the school you got into rather than thinking about what could have been?

Texas alone has three universities ranked by Princeton as some of the most underrated in the nation. Schools like the University of Houston offer unique benefits like merit scholarships and a thriving local job market.

Even at lesser-known schools, you might be surprised by the unique traditions they hold: Tarleton University holds a midnight breakfast during homecoming week, Barnard college creates a massive sandwich and Swarthmore hunts for pterodactyls.

And if the school you end up at doesn’t have a tradition that suits you, make your own! College involves more free time than you’re likely to ever have again, and every whacky tradition was created by bored college students like you.

However, some might say that college choice matters because of the quality of education. While it may be true that elite universities have a high standard for professors, there are also quite a few highly qualified professors out there.

In fact, there are so many professors that the likelihood of a high-quality professor ending up at a “lower” quality school is arguably higher. Either way, most professors got into their field because they wanted to teach and mentor curious students.

No matter what ranking your school has, you can almost always find a professor willing to teach you if you show genuine interest. The phrase “big fish in a small pond” fits well, as one professor might be more likely to notice you with less competition. 

At the end of the day, college is a period to explore, learn and be free in a way that’s completely unique. As student loan debt and job competition becomes worse, consider taking the time to enjoy where you are now. You might just surprise yourself.

Malachi Spence Key is a journalism senior who can be reached at 
[email protected]

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