This is the second of a two part series for prospective students on how to make one of the biggest choices of their lives thus far: where to go for college.
To the 4.69%,
Congratulations. You made it. You’re part of the most selective class Stanford (or any university in the world, really) has ever seen.
Now, it’s the end of April, this song is on repeat, and you need to make a decision.
Some of you are probably thinking right now, Are you kidding me? I’ve been born ready to go to Stanford. I’ve been working toward this my whole life. Why are you even trying to convince me?
Others of you are probably going: Oh my god. What do I do?
If you’re part of the first group, this article probably won’t interest you too much. But if you’re in the second group, and I’m guessing that many of you are at least a little conflicted about where to go for college, this is the piece for you. Although I can’t tell you what decision to make, I can share what I wish I knew as a high school senior: what Stanford’s really like, behind the manicured lawns and repainted benches.
MYTH: Stanford will be a fresh start.
TRUTH: Maybe your high school experience was agonizing, or maybe you just want to recreate yourself in a place where no one knows you yet. However, Stanford (or any other college) might not be what you were expecting in terms of a fresh start. Being a Stanford student is pretty much the same as being a high school student, just with more nap time and kale. You’ll still spend a lot of time stressing over tests and homework, and you probably won’t change overnight from introvert to queen of the Row.
Stanford is not a fresh start. Stanford is a work in progress. Being a Stanford student doesn’t mean that problems in your life get magically solved. But being a Stanford student means that, just like the endless construction on campus, you’ll get infinite opportunities to recreate yourself everyday — by trying out for the Ultimate Frisbee team, joining the Band, or taking that research opportunity with the famous scientist.
MYTH: Everyone is nice at Stanford.
TRUTH: Like the “fresh start” myth, believe it or not, the friend drama and mean kids in high school do still exist on a campus nicknamed the Disneyland of colleges. Admissions does a great job of selecting the brightest and most talented people to become students here, but kindness isn’t a factor that they or can select for. All you can do when faced with the haters, as a young poet once said, is shake it off.
MYTH: Stanford students are always happy.
TRUTH: You won’t have to look far to burst this myth. Mental health on college campuses is a hot-button topic and Stanford is no stranger to the challenges of revamping mental health. The good news is that we do have some resources, like CAPS and The Bridge, on campus to help students. However, don’t assume that by choosing Stanford, you’re choosing a guaranteed happiness.
MYTH: Stanford students don’t struggle.
TRUTH: Choosing to go to Stanford means that you’re choosing a challenge. You will end up in the same class with people who are wayyy smarter than you. Sometimes it will feel like Stanford made a mistake in admitting you, because even though you’ve written this equation a hundred times, you still can’t figure out this physics problem. For a lot of people, Stanford is the first time they fail a class or withdraw — and there’s absolutely no shame in that — but don’t choose Stanford because you want a walk in a tree-lined park. Choose Stanford for the challenge.
MYTH: There’s a perfect fit for you.
TRUTH: Every college will have a cool rec center, a welcoming community, people that you click with, good dining halls, bad dining halls, and accomplished professors. There’s no wrong decision — you will find a place for you wherever you go for college and there will be opportunities for you to be happy there.
Moreover, there are so many people who decide that college isn’t right for them right now and take a few gap years. There are people who transfer schools and people who take time off after a year or two on the Farm.
To me, the idea of a “perfect fit” school is as overwhelming as love at first sight. Your happiness isn’t tied to a school or a person; it’s tied to your ability to control your circumstances, take advantage of the opportunities around you, and make yourself happy — at Stanford, or wherever you choose.
Contact Samantha Wong at slwong ‘at’ stanford.edu.