How the College Applications Process is Like Dating

06th Nov 2015

People always laugh at me when I say the college process is like dating. But after 10+ years in the industry, I still agree with my analogy. In fact, I think it only gets better with time.

Here are a few snippets so that you can see what I mean:

Your Expectations…

You have certain expectations of what your college experience is going to look like. You may be like me and dream of a campus quad flanked with tall trees and red brick buildings. Or maybe going to school by a beach. Or in a bustling city.

This is just like dating. You have certain expectations of the man or woman you want to be with. You may want them to be funny, have shared interests, and maybe look a certain way. Your expectations may be built on real-life experience (people you’ve dated before, campuses you visited) or they could just be from what you believe you want.

…Versus Reality

As we all know, what we THINK we want can completely change once we’re sitting on the campus itself — or actually dating the person. You thought you found the perfect person in terms of your lineup of qualities, but they end up being super conceited — and suddenly all of the things on your list don’t matter anymore. It’s just like a school campus. It might have everything you wanted, but you just couldn’t picture yourself at the campus, no matter how hard you try.

Other People’s Expectations

Now don’t forget that there are also parent/guardian expectations to manage! What your parents want for you in a spouse or college might look very different from what you want. Your parents might want you to get with the super stable computer geek, whereas you prefer the hipster architect type. This also includes your friends. Just because your best friend likes a certain college (or type of person), it doesn’t automatically mean that you will too.

For some, knowing what you want in a college or date comes pretty easily. But for many others, it’s often hard to separate your own opinion from everyone else’s (especially when you really value that other person’s opinion!). Just remember that the college you ultimately choose will be yours and yours alone. Kinda like marriage.

And, yes, divorce or transferring is also an option in this culture!

This Doesn’t Apply to Me

I will admit that every year, I have a handful of students who say something along the lines of, “You just don’t understand my parents, Ms. Ho. If I don’t attend X or Y or Z college, they said they won’t pay for college.” Or, “My parent already said that the college I’m going to is the one that gives me the best scholarship.”

If that’s your situation, then you might have to readjust your expectations on the college process a little. Your situation might be less like dating and more like an arranged marriage! Which, let’s be honest — if you’ve been on multiple bad dates in a row, you’re probably pretty open to!

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Author: Stacey Ho

Stacey has over ten years experience in college admissions counseling. She graduated from UCLA and then received a Master’s in School Counseling from the University of Maryland, College Park. She also obtained a certification in College Admissions Advising from UC Berkeley Extension. She is passionate about helping first-generation college students.