Selecting a college: follow your heart (especially if it leads you to Pitt)

The college application process was one of the most stressful experiences I’ve been through, without question. All of the promotional material I received in the mail was overwhelming, and I obsessively pored over lists like “Top colleges for neuroscience” and “Best cities to attend college in.” With the help of my parents and older sibling, who’d all been through this process before, I listed my priorities for college in terms of academic fields, student body size, geographical location, tuition, and similar factors. From there, I used various websites that allow you to browse colleges based on those preferences and began a spreadsheet to compare different colleges. This was one of the most useful tips I could recommend to any prospective student—make a spreadsheet! You’ll thank yourself later.

When I was applying to colleges, my first step was to make a few fundamental choices. I had no interest in going to a rural school or one with a student body of less than 5,000 students, so I immediately ruled out any colleges that didn’t meet that criteria. From there, I compiled a moderate list of potential colleges and ranked them by fields of study available, then financial aid, then location. From there, I picked my top 15 or so choices and began to reach out to request more information, planned tours, and spoke with current students. Finally, I applied to my top 5-7 schools after holistically evaluating my preferences. After receiving various acceptances and rejections, Pitt was my final decision, and I would choose Pitt again without question if I had to do the whole process over!

I personally recommend touring colleges in person and speaking with current students, if you have the opportunity. One of the most compelling reasons for me to attend Pitt was the student environment, which I would have never known about had I not visited Pitt. As cheesy as it sounds, I knew Pitt was the perfect fit the moment I stepped foot on campus. Plus, I was so impressed that every single student (literally, every single student) that I spoke with genuinely loved their life at Pitt. I can’t tell you how many times students told me that Pitt felt like home, or that they’re having the time of their life, or that they fell in love with this school immediately. I now repeat those exact sentiments to every prospective student I speak with, and I truly mean them.

Once you’re at college, the transition can feel daunting but connecting with students around you cures your worries. I highly recommend talking to the people in your dorm and attending as many events as possible, as well as joining a club or two that catches your interest. Now is the time to explore whatever interests or excites you most, and you’ll certainly make friends along the way. Additionally, forming study groups with people in your classes and settling into a balanced routine in the first few weeks will greatly assist your transition from high school to college-level classes. You’re bound to have missteps and setbacks along the way but being flexible and resilient is key.

Ultimately, everything will work out in the end! Don’t stress yourself out too much and know that the college experience isn’t about where you go, but what you make of it no matter where you end up. Make sure you don’t go through the college application process alone; lean on friends and family every step of the way. And most importantly, follow your heart—I hope that it leads you to Pitt!

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