Hearing Voices: Wisdom from a College Advisor
One thing every high school student quickly figures out is that college is a hot topic. The college admissions process itself gets much media coverage, and there are numerous sources who tell you they have the “inside scoop” on the best colleges whether it is through their “official” ranking system or unofficial ratings provided by students. It seems that everyone, including your next-door neighbor, Uncle Billy and Aunt Bess, and even the store clerk, is eager to share his or her thoughts on the college process.
First, please hear this – you have permission to share or not share what you are thinking about your future. For those who would prefer not to engage in college conversations, you can craft a readily-available, polite response to indicate that you are carefully considering many options but do not have specifics at this point.
Yet, even if you choose not to engage in these conversations, it is harder to ignore your own personal questions about college, which can arise unexpectedly. The reality is that there are many voices that desire to speak into your college process, and many of them are even well-meaning. So, to which voices should you listen?
The Lord. He made you; he knows you inside and out; he desires your best; and he has wisdom far beyond your own. Wherever you are in the process – a senior receiving decisions, a junior just starting to contemplate, or a freshman or sophomore resisting the very thought of life beyond high school – stop for a moment and offer your future to God, asking for his priorities, his wisdom, and his love to guide your decisions. As God says in his word, “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps,” (Proverbs 16:9). “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand,” (Proverbs 19:21). “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, that God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them,” (Ephesians 2:10).
Your parents or guardians. They have spent more time with you than anyone; they have provided for you, prayed for you, lost sleep over you; and they will likely be the main financial investors in your college experience. They are essential partners in the college process, and their voices are valuable.
You, the student. Ultimately, you are the one going to college, and the most important thing is to determine what you need to flourish. Referring to your “voice” in the process means asking yourself questions that will help you discern what qualities you need to thrive. The name of the school, its ranking, or the success of its sports teams does not equate to “the right place for me.” There are many factors to consider in determining if a college is a good fit for you, but here are just a few typical criteria and some questions to ask while considering them:
- Size is more than simply comparing a large, usually public, institution with a small college. What you really need to ask is, “Am I an independent learner who has the initiative to seek help in a large classroom environment, or do I learn best where I am known and can interact regularly with the teacher? Am I comfortable reaching out to join organizations, initiating relationships, and pursuing community, or do I prefer when community is simply present around me?”
- Location is more than in-state versus out-of-state or north versus south. What you should ask yourself is, “Am I ready to be a plane ride or a day’s drive away from home, or do I like knowing I can get home in a few hours if needed? Do I want a college where the action is on campus? Do I like the idea of a small town with its own identity nearby? Do I want to be where the campus flows into the city, and the city is as much a part of my life as the college?”
- Christian or secular – what you need to ask is, “Am I likely to seek out the resources and community I need to continue growing my relationship with God in a secular environment? Would I grow best in a community where most of those around me share the Christian faith?” Christian community is vital wherever you go, so it is important to identify what fellowship and discipleship opportunities exist whether you attend a Christian or a secular college.
- High School Reflections – Ask yourself, “What about my high school experience have I loved? What would I change? What does that tell me about myself and the community I choose beyond high school?”
These are just a few of the important questions to ask yourself. Whether you are a junior just beginning to consider your plans beyond high school or a senior who will be deciding soon, taking the time to reflect on who you are, how you are “wired,” and in what environment you tend to flourish will help you to make the right choice. That decision might even be a step other than college. Please know that your college advising team is there for you. College advisors desire to listen well, help you ask good questions, and partner with you to discern God’s voice and your own amidst all the others.
About the Author
Dana Weigand is a College Advisor at TCS and a proud parent of two Trinity graduates. She enjoys the outdoors, local coffee shops, field trips, and spending as much time as possible with her family. With a heart for vulnerable families, Dana volunteers with a community-based ministry in DC.