As many of you have likely noticed, my recent posts in Instagram and Facebook have been filled with beautiful scenery in South Carolina and lots of foodie pictures were included too. After a fabulous week touring colleges in the Palmetto State and visiting my 9th grade social studies teacher, a dear friend and mentor, I am back in the college counseling swing of things….or at least getting close.

So here we are, just a little over a week away from May 1, the national deposit deadline for high school seniors beginning their college careers in the fall. Many parents and students anticipated that April would be a carefree month and that the hardest work was behind them. While there may not be any more essays to edit or standardized tests to take, in these final days leading up to May 1, high school seniors are being tested at a level that may be unprecedented as they try to somehow gain divine clarity and direction about their final college choice.

Families are packing their spring break schedules with college visits, and everyone feels the pressure to bring this process to a close. Students are likely facing one of the biggest decisions in their lives to date. The possibility of making the wrong choice is in the back of many seniors’ minds. The decision feels heavy with impacts that could last a lifetime. So what can you do to turn down the stress level and make a decision in a relaxed state of mind? Listen up…

Choosing a college is an important decision, but it is not as crucial as finding the right life partner or deciding whether or not to have children. Now I know that most teenagers have not faced these two situations yet, but trust me, these are meaningful decisions that have long-term ripple effects for our futures. As you weigh your college options, don’t forget about the most important piece of this decision- YOU! What do you truly need to be happy and successful in college? Do you thrive as a big fish in a little pond? Would it be reassuring to go to college close to home so making a last minute decision to go home on a weekend is a possibility? Will the colleges that are making the final cut in your decision process offer everything you need as far as academic opportunities, learning support services (if needed), study abroad programs, and anything else that you feel is vital to your undergraduate experience? As you walk around your favorite schools, can you see yourself fitting in or do you feel like you would be a fish out of water (Sorry for all of this fish analogies! I am clearly still in a South Carolina state of mind)? Is the college that is at the top of your list affordable or will it saddle you with debt that may impede your ability to go to graduate school, buy a home, or save for your own child’s college education? Will the college you want to attend support your postgraduate plans and open doors for graduate school and/or job opportunities that are in line with your goals?

You may not be able to say “Yes” to all of the questions above. But what matters is that all of the questions that matter to you get a “Yes.” At some point, the deliberation needs to end, and students must trust their gut instincts, make a decision, and bring closure to this process. Consult your family, friends, and anyone else who loves you enough to tell you what you need to hear instead of what you want to hear. And then, choose your college, send in that deposit by May 1 and book yourself a trip to Charleston, South Carolina to celebrate (just kidding!), pat yourself on the back, and get ready and excited for the next chapter. How it turns out is 100% up to you and the choices you make. Good luck and Congratulations!

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