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How to Avoid the 'Four Fears' When Choosing a College

On a daily basis this time of year, I get requests to weigh in on a student's enrollment decision. Families want my opinion. But the only opinion that really matters is the student's (and the parents who are footing some or all of the bill).

One of the biggest stumbling blocks that students have in making their final decision about where to enroll for college is a four-letter word called "fear." I have seen students turn down the right "fit" for them because of fear.

So if you are not sure where to go to college, make sure to avoid the "four fears" of this final step of the process.

1. FOMO: Fear of Missing Out

This is when what your friends are doing no longer matters. It is only about what you should do. As much as your friends' choices seem idyllic on the surface, there is a reason you applied to different colleges. So don't second-guess the environment that is right for you. Embrace it. I remember visiting my best friend's older sister at this huge public university right before I made my own college decision. The social scene was outrageously fun. For a weekend, that is. I realized when I got home from that trip that I would not be happy in that social scene 24/7. Don't worry about what others are doing. Stay in your own lane and make that lane your future.

2. FOSN: Fear of Saying No

It's okay to say "no" to a college. They say it all the time to students. As much as a student is flattered by an acceptance, merit scholarship, or even an honors program, if the college is not right for them, they need to let that college know. No one at the college is going to be upset. No one at the college is going to lose sleep. By declining the offer of acceptance, it could open up an opportunity for a waitlisted student to be admitted. You are helping others by saying "no."

3. FOLYCZ: Fear of Leaving Your Comfort Zone

Never pick the "safe choice." College is supposed to stretch you in ways you never expected—socially, personally, and academically. Students who are afraid to face fear, afraid to step out of their comfort zone, and afraid to make a choice that others around them have never done will not have the same growth. That doesn't mean that your local university is the "safe choice." Sometimes staying close to home is the opposite of the safe choice. Just make sure wherever you end up, you stretch yourself beyond what you thought you could do.

4. FOF: Fear of Failing

This occurs when a student starts to get cold feet about a college that they view as out of their league intellectually. If the college admits you, they believe you can succeed there. Plain and simple, believe in yourself. I was once told by a high school teacher that I was not "college-material." I ended up graduating at the very top of my class in college and got to speak at my graduation. Clearly, I had something to prove to that teacher and myself.  

READ MORE: Appeals in College Admissions: Everything You Need to Know

Making a final decision about where to go to college is not easy. It is not meant to be. This is the first time a student is making such a big decision. This is the start of adulthood. Embrace the fact that you have opportunities waiting for you.
I believe in doing the unexpected. I believe in facing fear head on. I believe in taking thoughtful risks. I hope all of you do as well.