Four years ago, I was kind of your stereotypical overachiever – 3.9 UW GPA, 34 ACT, a bunch of AP classes, and some decent but not fantastic extracurricular activities. I applied to a bunch of schools, and ended up committing to a Public Ivy because it was the highest ranked school of my options. Sounds great, right? I was going to get a great education at a highly-ranked school.
It wasn’t great.
From nearly the moment I got to campus I hated it. The largest problem was that I did not fit with the school’s culture. Not at all.
Another problem was I hated how huge this school was. I came from a small high school. There were about 150 people in my graduating class. I hated how far it was from my dorm to some of my classes. I hated how some of my classes had hundreds of people. I hated how I felt basically anonymous in a huge crowd of students. I was miserable nearly the entire time that I was there. I was the most depressed I have ever been in my life. I was counting down the days until I got to leave.
I knew I had to transfer very quickly. There was no way I would last 4 years at this place. When I was trying to decide where I wanted to transfer to, I knew that I wanted the opposite experience of my first college.
I decided to look at a liberal arts school that I had never really considered when I was still in high school. It was ranked too low and wasn’t prestigious. If you’re not from the state it’s located in, you’ve probably never heard of it. The acceptance rate for my school is 65%. The average ACT score is 20. But despite my reservations, I decided to transfer.
I don’t regret it at all.
I love going to school here. It has everything that I could want a college to offer me as a student. My school is really small – only about 1,200 students, which means you get to know everyone really well. At this point, basically everyone in my classes are people I have had numerous classes with before. I have taken multiple classes with fewer than ten students. The largest one I have ever taken had 30. Also, because it’s so small, everything on campus is close to everything else. You don’t need to take buses to get to classes. Heck, you don’t even need a bike. You can get to anywhere else on campus with plenty of time to spare just by walking.
Initially, when I saw how it was ranked, I was worried about the quality of the academics. As it turns out, that was not something I needed to worry about. I have learned so much here. My professors have all been really knowledgeable and passionate about helping students learn.
Going to a less-selective, obscure school has not stopped me from being successful. After graduation I was constantly getting hit up by recruiters from all sorts of companies, and I interviewed with quite a few places. None of them cared that I went to a less well-known school. It could not have made less of a difference to them. What they cared about was the skills I had and the things I had managed to do while in college.
I’ve had two different internships, one with a Fortune 500 company and another with one of the top firms in their field. Both of them wanted to hire me, but I turned them both down because I got another job offer I liked better.
I am here to tell you that you can be successful no matter where you go to college. What’s most important about your college is what you do while you are there, and it’s so much easier to accomplish a lot when you actually like where you go to school. Not only have I gotten stellar grades, but I have also made great connections both with my professors and my fellow students, gained professional experience through my internships, and I have gotten involved in organizations that I am passionate about and that help make my community better.
So what’s the point of this whole post?
My point is to not get too hung up on the rankings. Stop and think about where you would actually like to attend college. As you weigh your options, think about what it would be like to go to each school that accepted you. That’s something I never did when I was in high school.
And keep an open mind. Four years ago I never would have expected myself to end up where I am. I had my whole college journey planned out, but then it got upended. That’s life. Don’t beat yourself up if everything doesn’t go according to your plans. You’re still going to do great things.
This post originally appeared in the subreddit ApplyingToCollege by the user w007dchuck. It has been lightly edited, confirmed, and used by permission and with gratitude by Challenge Success.