You’ve been there before. You’re in a dark theater and you sit down with a big bucket of buttered popcorn and soda to watch a movie. Tonight’s feature presentation is about going to college. It seemed to be an appropriate pick since you will all be heading off to college yourself in a year or so. Movies about college are normally what I would call disaster comedies. They are about what goes wrong in the admissions process or the hardships of transitioning to college. One minute you are laughing and the next you fear for the future life of the lead character.
These movies are like horror flicks to me. As a long time college admission professional, I sit there in suspense about what will happen next. I leave the theater only to go home and have a nightmare on behalf of the students that might actually be living through a real life version of what I saw on film.
The film industry starts sending this message early in life. Even the children’s tale Monster’s University illustrates the perils of heading off to college. Forget monsters under the bed, this becomes real life. The beloved characters Mike and Sulley meet at college and experience quite a crazy adventure.
Your imagination is bound to run wild after watching movies about college. You may assume that your high school guidance counselor will never get your transcript in on time, your college admission counselor could care less about you, your future roommate will be a slob (or a neat freak, whichever scares you more), the faculty will be out to get you and making friends will be impossible.
So many students I talk to find the college process frightening. I’ve talked with students that are paralyzed by the process to the point that they try to leave it up to their friends or their parents to lead and guide their college search.
I’m writing to tell you that college isn’t so scary. There are plenty of resources to find the right school and support systems in place once you get to school to help you succeed. I’m not saying that every student will get into their first choice school or that everyone will stick with their first choice major, there will certainly be some highs and lows before you get settled in at the right school. But the right school is out there.
The good news is that fiction and reality can differ in your college adventure. As much as I might break out into cold sweats after watching these movies, my confidence is far stronger in the actual admissions process at a Private Christian College. In the years I’ve attended and worked at Christian colleges I have not had the same experiences that entertain people in these movies. I’d say my personal experience has been more of a romantic comedy. I found a school I adored, spent time cultivating a relationship with that University and then fell head over heels with the right financial aid, dorm, major, etc.
Want to know how to ride off into the college sunset? After 14 years as a college admission professional, I have some encouragement for you. Make friends with your admissions representative from any and all schools you plan to apply to, they can help you have a fairytale ending. Visit the campuses you are interested in, continue to focus on your grades and be pro-active. You have been cast in the lead role. Don’t lean on your parents, guidance counselor or friends to determine how your story will end. Figure out what you want and go after it. Call schools, return their calls when they contact you, send in paperwork on time, search the internet for scholarships. Who knows, maybe the next film will feature your story, inspiring many to live out their own happy ending.