“Choose the college that feels the most like home.” That’s the advice that I find myself sharing on a regular basis with seniors at this time of year. All other things being equal (especially cost of attendance), in the end it’s the college that feels like home that will be the “right” college.
It’s not an easy task to determine which college feels the most like home, however. Students generally only apply to colleges that they like, so when decision time comes it’s easy to find qualities about each available option that seem homey. So how on earth does an undecided senior quantify which college feels the most like home?
Let’s start with what doesn’t make a college feel like home on an average Tuesday. For instance, state of the art academic facilities won’t do much to make you feel at home. Neither will a prestigious reputation, a winning basketball team, or the presence of your favorite aunt and uncle 45 minutes away. These are all positive qualities, mind you, and they will add to your college experience some of the time, but again…we’re considering the average Tuesday. The value of these qualities only goes so far.
That brings us back to the original question – what does make a college feel like home? Put simply, relationships will do more to make your college feel like home than most anything else. A group of friends who share similar interests and ideals are of enormous significance. A professor who knows your name and is willing to help you during office hours is also valuable. This is the stuff of “home” – people who care about you. Give some thought to what types of friends you would like to have in college, then consider what types of campus groups will help you connect to those people, and look for the college that will best provide those opportunities. Spend some time on campuses, join the Facebook groups of admitted students, and look for people you’ll connect with.
There’s a bigger concept at work here that we also need to consider. Why are relationships so important to us? The answer is that God actually designed us to be in relationships with each other. Most importantly, He designed us to be in relationship with Him. It will always be true that we feel most at home when we are seeking (and finding) God. So, as you make your final choice between the wonderful colleges that have invited you to join their student body, look carefully for opportunities to develop in your relationship with God. The college that offers the best opportunities to connect with a campus ministry or local church that suits you both theologically and personally is ultimately the one that will lead to you feeling at home. When everything else feels new and different, your relationship with God will be a constant source of comfort that you can rely upon.
This same principle of relationships with God and others will carry over into other big decisions you’ll make in your lifetime. Should you move to a new city to accept that job offer? Should you marry this person? The quality of relationships, especially the opportunity to grow deeper in relationship with God, will influence those choices, too. No matter how much life changes around us, God is always our anchor and a constant presence. Base your decisions on the pursuit of Him and you’ll find that you’re always at home. Take comfort in the truth of Jesus’ promise:
“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”