It’s time for college? Really?

As my first blog for College Coaching with Care I thought I’d begin – well, at the beginning. I decided to start a blog for high school students and their parents to help you guys navigate through the rough waters of the journey toward higher education. It can be a treacherous path at times! I thought perhaps maybe I could help with that. I have two kids in college so I’ve survived that particular trek myself a couple of times. Not to mention… oh, yeah, I do this for a living and have assisted hundreds of students on that same journey. Most importantly, though, I was hoping maybe I could just make you laugh amid the madness of this exciting, crazy experience.

This transition in life is truly a wondrous experience. Wait. Stop laughing. That’s not the funny part yet. It’s an expedition of epic proportion! It’s also an odyssey the likes of Odysseus trying to defeat that one-eyed wonder, the Cyclops. If you don’t know that story, look it up! You’re going to college for Pete’s sake. Besides, your generation has Google. You can learn about any topic in just a few, simple keystrokes.

Those keystrokes (and the basics of how to do research) will help you prepare for the arduous and long process of choosing a college. So think back to your first librarian teaching you the basics of where to go in your library and how to find what some teacher decided you absolutely needed to know. Then, get on your knees and be thankful you never had to learn how to use a card catalog! Those tiny drawers of lunacy sent us all in circles through the endless shelves of our libraries seeking H192.6378 only to find every other number except that one. It was a confusing time, for sure. Now, though, the Internet is here to make your life easier and faster – actually it’s mostly distracting and kills your self-esteem, but in this case it’s a handy little tool. Avoid Facebook and ads with skinny models or buff athletes with their ripped muscles bulging through their shirts and instead “visit” some colleges on your laptop. Okay, maybe that doesn’t sound nearly as appealing as the beautiful people in the ads, but stay with me here a minute. College searches on the web are a great way to narrow down the seemingly endless multitude of colleges and universities out there offering everything from fancy dorms to yoga classes in their state-of-the-art gyms. Some colleges do have wonderful amenities, but those are added bonuses, not the best reasons to attend a school for the next four years of your life.

So, how does a high school student figure it all out? It’s like searching for Justin Timberlake’s hair in a bowl of Ramen Noodles, which incidentally you might find yourself eating a lot of in a college dorm more often than you think. But that’s a blog for another day.

Today, I want to help you begin to get yourself familiar with the schools of secondary education that are out there for you. The first step, however, isn’t what you might think. Sure, you can search the list of top schools, best schools, prettiest schools, or schools with combination majors like Contemporary Art and Diplomatic Affairs with a concentration in Women’s Studies someplace where the weather is warm and there is option for a Study Abroad in Hawaii or where marijuana is legal, but that’s not going to help you – especially not that last one. No, the first step of your search is actually in your mirror. No, not on the photos stuck inside the framing of your bedroom furniture showing you and your weird friends making silly faces or on the crinkled ticket stub from only the best concert ever known to man! No, not there, but in your reflection. Somewhere in that person facing you in the spotty echo of yourself is everything you need. But you might want to consider wiping that mirror down too. Yuck.
I won’t go too existentialist on you, but who you are is at the base of this journey you are taking, so it might be worth your time to explore her or him. Check out the Internet browser in your brain. If you were to search you inside your head, what would come up? Usually labels are the first thing to appear to us when describing someone, like student, son/daughter, brother/sister, soccer player, debater, musician, artist, et cetera. That’s a great place to start! Which of those labels that you find makes you smile? Makes you feel content? Hopefully, many of them. Dig a little deeper in that spot. Does your music or art make you feel like you’re contributing to our world in a productive and purposeful way? Or does debating contemporary issues light a fire in your belly and send you straight to Facebook on a rant? This is great too! Well, maybe not for the folks on Facebook, but hey, they’re your friends. They’ll have to deal.
The idea is to explore what truly makes you happy, not necessarily what kind of “job” you think you want to do. That comes later. Most people change their jobs many times throughout their lives, but figuring out what you’re trying to be or accomplish in this world is the real key to finding places and jobs that are right for you. Most importantly, maybe you can even make a difference in the world when you tap into your real purpose, but this takes time and it’s okay if you have no idea yet what that might be. The intention is simply to find where you are unique and how using that quality can possibly help someone else. That’s what you’ll find in that mirror, when you look hard enough. If you keep searching you, it will lead you to the right college with the right friends and studying the right subjects for you.

Finding a fit, not just an acceptance letter, a new dorm building or a fancy gym, is what guides you to the place you need to be, not just the place you want to be. And finding yourself is a gift that keeps giving for the rest of your life.

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