By Tiffany Lee

Application season is blooming, and many students feel tremendous stress when submitting applications due to endless college rankings, parental pressure and peer judgment.  With all this external weight on their shoulders, students often forget whose opinion actually matters: their own.

The American Dream has officially shifted from the pursuit of happiness to the pursuit of a school with a “good” name.  Eager students await the highly anticipated college rankings lists every year, and narrow down their choices from the top 100, or the top 50, or even the top 10.  But what do these rankings prove?  That Ivy League schools are the only ones worth applying to?  Of course not.  These lists are primarily based on undergraduate academic reputation, which consists of two subfactors: peer assessment surveys and high school counselors’ ratings, both of which could easily include biased opinions.  The rankings only exist to insure the aristocracy of the Ivy League.

Parental and peer pressure attack students even more.  Constant questioning occurs at school, when friends bemoan college applications together, and after school, when parents confirm that their children are going to go to Stanford.  But worst of all is the dreaded family reunion.  Unrecognizable relatives ask which college students are heading to and try to hide looks of disappointment when they receive an answer they deem as inferior.  Parents can’t stop talking about that one cousin double-majoring in Harvard, or the other cousin who just graduated a valedictorian from UC Berkeley.  The endless comparisons to others both inside and outside of school are unhealthy and simply wrong.

What makes a college the right choice?  Students should think about what the school offers that other schools don’t, the school’s strongest majors, the cost, location, student life and many other factors that contribute to an amalgam of the perfect college.  It’s impossible to find a school that’s perfect for everyone.

Pick a school that’s good for your major.  Some schools are better for engineers, and others are better for lawyers.

Pick a school that’s as close or as far away from home as you want.  Just remember this simple saying: Stanford for staying at home, Princeton for prying away your parents’ invasive fingers.

Pick a school whose culture fits you.  Distinctions between public or private, small or big and rural or urban schools can play a large part in making the next four years a comfortable experience.

Don’t whole-heartedly dismiss a school because of cost.  Many schools are willing to offer great amounts of financial aid and scholarships if they want you, so don’t shy away from applying to the more expensive schools.

Pick a school that has the right dorms.  Some schools force freshmen to stay in dorms, and some don’t have a four-year dorm guarantee.  Some schools don’t allow microwaves and water boilers, which could endanger those who intend to live on instant noodles.  Some schools don’t allow you to choose your roommate, posing a problem to those who want to live with their best friends for four years.

Pick a school that has the right weather.  Especially for comfortable Californians, a switch in climate could be disastrous.  Going from summer all year long to rain and sleet could dampen your spirits.

Pick a school that suits you as a whole, and don’t be afraid to be picky when doing so.  My brother’s strongest argument against the University of the Pacific was that it had too much brick.

In the end, you’ll spend four years of your life there.  Don’t be miserable.  Weigh the possibilities yourself instead of letting others put weight upon you.

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