A couple of weeks ago at high schools all across the country, camera crews from ESPN, Fox, Bleacher Report etc. set up at high schools to watch select students sign a piece of paper and possibly put on a hat. Pictures are made, tweets were sent, as were faxes as these young men and women put their pen to the paper to let their choice be known as to what college or university they will attend.
I had a “signing day,” but I promise it wasn’t nearly as exciting or glamorous as what the kids on National Singing Day experience.
There were no camera crews, reporters or celebration across my chosen university fan base. I wasn’t signing to play sports; I signed purely to get an education. I don’t even remember exactly what day it was that I officially decided I would attend Auburn University.
The hype surrounding the typical high school student when they sign to play sports on the collegiate level is big, but it is not always for the right reasons. Let me add a disclaimer here, I am not belittling student athletes. I get just as excited as the next person when Auburn gets a good football recruit, but I think it is a shame that you never hear more than about their athletic abilities. You never hear about what they want to study or why they want to go to that particular school, which is a shame considering how difficult it is for them to balance school and playing on the collegiate level.
When any student is deciding on a college it is a big decision and one that should take a lot of things into account.
-DO-Go Where YOU are Happy– When looking at colleges you can’t base your decision on someone else’s preference. Don’t do it, it is going to be your education and your life for the next four years. If your dad went to Yale, don’t feel like you need to go there just because he did. Parents- you may have had a great experience at Yale, but don’t pressure your kids to go there. It might work out fine, but you don’t want to risk your child being unhappy and leaving Yale or worse flunking out. Obviously if you like where your parents, siblings etc went to school then by all means go, just do not go there because they did.
–DO Visit (Multiple times if possible) – How do you know if you’ll be happy at a particular school? (softball question here) You have to visit of course! Visit several times if possible. I suggest visiting during different seasons of the year, if you don’t like the cold then you might now want to choose to go with the University of Minnesota without visiting in the winter to experience the negative high temperatures. Bonus points if you can visit on a rainy day, because if you can like a college on a rainy day, you’ll love it anytime.
I remember walking around in the rain one day while in visiting Auburn and thinking “I love this place so much I don’t even mind trudging through the rain. I walked around the rest of the day with a goofy grin on my face, but I was just excited to be there. I cannot say the same for my rainy visit to another school.
-DO Go Somewhere That Has What You Want To Study– I know this may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised the -people I have met over the years who are at a school that say “well I want to be a engineer, but they don’t offer engineering where I go to school” (or something to that effect. Seriously? Why did you go to school there? Choose a school that has what you are interested in studying. It will make going to class a lot easier and is a better financial investment.
-DO NOT Go Somewhere Because of Their Athletic Teams (Unless you’re a student athlete)- Some people are really passionate about sports. (Keep in mind I am from Alabama where college sports are cut throat (literally). This may come as shocking to some people, but I grew up “rooting” (I use that term loosely) for Alabama. My dad was an Alabama fan so when I was a kid that’s who I pulled for, I had no reason to pull for anyone else. However, there was never any doubt in my mind that I would never go to school there, the major reason being that they did not have the programs I was interested in, nor was the atmosphere a good fit for me personally. So in the back of my mind even as I wore an Alabama t-shirt growing up that I would more than likely go to Auburn one day to study agriculture. I know people who will not go to school at Auburn (or Alabama) or even step foot in the other team’s prospective city because they hate the other team so much. This is ridiculous. Your football team loyalty should not dictate where you choose to go to school. Every school in the country has its strengths in academics, don’t change your career goals just because the school of the team you root for doesn’t have the program you want to study.
-BE CAUTIOUS About Following Your Significant Other – Before you start telling me about your friend who went to the same school as her boyfriend and is now married with three kids, a dog and a picket fence let me add another disclaimer. I know some people go off to the same college and it works out wonderfully, they stay together, get married and have cute kids etc., but I also know that it doesn’t always work out. I have had friends on both ends of the spectrum, I can’t see the future and tell you should or shouldn’t, but when you are 17/18 years old and you are planning your future and you are considering going to a college only on the basis of that being where your boyfriend/girlfriend goes then you need to proceed with caution. When you are 18 and “in love” you may want to follow your boyfriend/girlfriend to the end of the earth, but be careful. You’ll grow up a lot your first year of college, you’ll learn a lot about yourself and you’ll see yourself and others change. I think in ways you’ll more if you go to college not attached at the hip of someone. You’ll have to make friends and learn to do your own thing sometimes. Ask yourself- if we broke up, would I still be happy this school? Would I have other friends other than my ex-boyfriend/girlfriend?
When it comes your “singing day” whether you chose a trade school, junior college or four year university, look long and hard. For some people the choice is an easy one, some people really struggle. Take your time and think about if for yourself, you will be the person going to school there everyday for the next 2-4 years. For everyone there are different factors to consider (family, money, health etc.).
Whatever your factors are, consider them all and take that leap of faith. There may not be cameras and lights when you “sign” to attend your university, but I promise it is just as exciting and just as important. No matter where you go, it will be at times difficult, stressful, fun, confusing, and will make you want to quit, but hang in there. When you finally walk across that stage and recieve that piece of paper worth several thousand dollars, you’ll be proud and when asked will always be able to say “I went to college at _________.”