Things I Wish I’d Heard as a High School Senior

Jeannie found that trusting your gut can be more useful than endless “pro/con” lists when it comes to choosing which university to attend.

“Liberal arts program? What is that? You mean you don’t have a business school?” I remember my mom asking an unfortunate undergraduate admissions worker in one of our many college visits. We had planned a trip to a nearby school in New England—my mom and I both knew I wanted to go to college for business, but we somehow failed to research that this college actually had a business program.

The poor college student at the front desk seemed confused by our question and answered, “It’s a liberal arts education. The point isn’t what you learn, it’s learning how to learn.”

Believing that I HAD to go to an undergraduate business school was just one of a long list of misconceptions I had while trying to choose where to go for college. It wasn’t until March of my senior year in high school that someone gave me the best piece of advice I’ve ever gotten, and it made the choice so much easier.

My mom and I were just about as crazy as they come in terms of college applications—we had a list of 20 schools to visit and an even longer list of schools to apply to. But beyond that, we also had ridiculous expectations: The school I chose had to be business-oriented, have a small size (but not TOO small), be close to home (but not TOO close), have a beautiful campus, be close to a city (but not TOO big of a city)—you get the picture. This laundry list of qualifications made picking a school SO much harder.

Somehow, we finally narrowed it down to two schools, but that seemed to make the choice more difficult. I was torn between UVA and a smaller liberal arts college in the Northeast, and endless pro/con lists weren’t making it any easier. The biggest problem: UVA had an undergraduate business school, and this other school had only a fledgling business program. I felt like I was playing game theory: Should I chance getting into McIntire and come to UVA? Or should I go to a school where I knew I could do business for sure?

Surprisingly, a professor at the OTHER university gave me the advice that ultimately drove me to come to UVA. After attending an informational session for the business program at their admitted students day, I decided I might as well just explain my dilemma to the head of the business program (a bold move, looking back). I walked up to the program’s lead and basically started pouring my heart out about how difficult this decision was.

“Look,” he said to me (I’m paraphrasing), “you seem like a pretty bright student. Regardless of where you go, you’ll probably achieve very similar end results. So I would think less about where you want to get in the end, and think more about how you want to get there.” At that moment, I knew UVA was the how that I wanted.

Fortunately, trusting my gut was the right move—I couldn’t be happier at McIntire, or at UVA. But there were still a couple of misconceptions on that list I really wish someone had cleared up during my senior spring:

Myth: If you don’t get into McIntire, you can’t study business.

Fact: Even if you don’t follow the McIntire path, you can learn about business through clubs, the Leadership or Entrepreneurship minors, Commerce electives, or the certificate programs.

Myth: If you don’t get into McIntire, you won’t be able to have the kind of career you want.

Fact: Regardless of whether you come to McIntire or not, UVA offers you so many opportunities to start the career of your choice.

UVA offers plenty of resources to help get the job you want, regardless of your major. The UVA Career Center can help set you on the right path. It has a Business & Technology Community that assists students in exploring opportunities in a corporate setting.

Myth: There’s no room to change your mind—you should know right now whether you want to do business or not.

Fact: You have plenty of time to change your mind once you come to UVA. The two years spent in the College of Arts & Sciences taking McIntire prerequisites can help you confirm that McIntire is right for you—if it’s not, there are many other subject areas you can explore.

When I was a first-year, my friends and I joked that “everyone is either pre-med or pre-Comm.” Obviously, not everyone at UVA is one of those two things, which means a lot of my friends changed their mind. College is about exploring and being open to new things, and it’s really cool that UVA gives everyone the chance to do so.

To an extent, I’m glad I struggled with the decision, because it led me to UVA! However, knowing all of these things would have made me significantly less stressed about choosing a school. I’m glad I made an informed choice, and I’m grateful that following my gut rewarded me with a fantastic college experience.

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