I just woke up from a dream that involved my younger sister deciding that she wanted to come to SUNY Fredonia with me for college. It was a nightmare. Not that the reality of her situation is much better. I love Fredonia and it was/is the right place for me (I really can’t say that enough, can I?) but my sister would absolutely hate it here.
Still, I love my sister. She’s seventeen, a high school senior and has no idea what she wants to do with her life. Which is fine—what I wanted to do with my life when I was seventeen isn’t what I’m working to do now. Who expects a kid to decide that right now?
Colleges, that’s who. They want to know your SAT scores, your extracurricular activities, an essay on why you want to go to this school—I hate to tell you, but most students don’t know why they want to go to your school any more than they know for what major. I’ve seen it happen every year: the freshmen get here in a huge group and by the end of the semester, they’ve been whittled down. Maybe they didn’t like this school after all. Or they figured out that they really didn’t want to become an actor, rocket scientist, school teacher, editor, philosopher, whatever they thought they would be. The point is, it’s not easy to find the right place in the universe for you and that’s just assuming the right place for you is in a university.
That’s my sister’s trouble. She doesn’t know where/what she wants to be. I’m sure she’s not the only high school senior with the same problems. I was a scared senior and I had started looking for schools when I was thirteen. I kept a journal, detailing my “get into college/senior year” experiences:
“I’m terrified and alone. Stressed and scared. I’m approximately nine months from leaving for college, six months from choosing a school and in three months, I start auditioning. See, I’m not worried too much about being accepted. It’s the auditioning that scares me. Because I don’t want to end up like our school music teacher: with a degree I can’t use and a job that I’m not wanted/I don’t want. I’m not meant to settle and wait. I’ve never walked into an audition wanting to be the chorus.”
Expect another post (very soon!) on what I learned about auditioning for schools and college theatre programs in specifics but this post is for my sister who (thankfully) doesn’t want to do theatre. Now only if we could figure out what she does what to do! Since she’s seventeen and doesn’t want to listen to anyone older than her, I thought maybe she’d be willing to read it?
1. Find your bliss. (Joseph Campbell, anyone?). If you are going to do anything in this life, Jenna, at least do what you love doing. You might hear people analyze what job markets are best to go into right now or that getting a degree in education is more useful than majoring in bio-chemical rocket neuroscience (can’t you tell I’m NOT a science major?) but passion makes more of a difference than “useful” ever will.
2. The universe is vast. You and me, we’ve lived out our childhoods in this teeny tiny little town that our family has lived in for the last two centuries. You know everybody and everybody waves and smiles when they see you. But you see, the world is a lot bigger than this and even with all the technology at your fingertips, it still can’t come to your doorstep. Maybe this is just me, still on high from travelling so much this year. I’m not saying that you’ll leave town and never return but if you get the chance to study abroad—take it. Get a job offer in another state? Try it. Meet new people and live in other houses and then we’ll re-introduce you to the people back home because you’ll be someone new to them.
3. It’s not about the money. College is expensive. Too expensive. The economy sucks, Dad’s been laid off more times than I can count and we all hate Wall Street. You’re looking at the numbers and even subtracting scholarships, grants, financial aid, it still adds up to too much. But you can’t put a price on experience. And earning a lot of money in job you hate, that you got by a degree you hated getting, is too high a price. Still worried about money? Welcome to adulthood in 2013, where we’ll probably worry about money for the rest of our lives. And if that doesn’t cure your worries, I’ll show you my bank account and the lack of scholarships and aid I’m getting and we’ll compare numbers.
So you make it through your senior high, graduate from high school, you add your signature to the panther mural outside the auditorium—and we drop you off at the school of your dreams, for the major you fell in love with and can afford thanks to that full scholarship you won! It would be perfect, except for that pesky roommate you were randomly assigned and hate.
4. Life is weird. Hate your roommate? Then don’t put up with it. Talk to your RA, talk to your friends and find someone else to live with. Same goes for any problem in life—your major, your school, your job. At the same time, I have to believe there’s a reason for some things to be. I was rejected from the major I wanted—and ended up doing exactly what I want to be doing. The girl who was supposed to be my roommate changed her mind at the last minute and I ended up rooming with the person who became my best friend.
Truth be told, Jenna-bug, I’m not worried for you. I worry that I’ll be in a distant city, backstage in some theatre without a phone when you need me the most but I’m not worried. Frustrated, yes. I hope Megan doesn’t follow your example when it’s her turn to start looking at colleges. But I do believe you are going to make it work—and then make it your work.