On Making Tough Decisions


There are a hundred ways that I could have started this blog on college-related fears, and probably ninety-nine of them are appropriate, but would you expect anything like that from me? I’d just like to say that my lunchroom at school is freezing. It’s like twenty below, freezing. Of course, the running joke at my school, which is rural and, you guessed it, not very affluent, is that the budget goes to chilling that icebox of a cafeteria. Can I say that my life is terrible because I’ve had to spend thirty minutes a day in there for four years? No, while I tend to be dramatic, it’s simply a minor inconvenience.

Go ahead and think about a minor inconvenience in your life. You’ll be able to easily identify it because we complain about the minor inconveniences pretty much 24/7. I’m only seventeen years old, and I’ve only been seventeen for about three days, so I’m pretty inexperienced in life, but I’ve experienced a number of minor inconveniences, little roadblocks. The nice thing about little roadblocks is that I can live with them. I never starved through high school because I couldn’t bear the lunchroom; I shut up and ate my PBJ like a good little high student because food is important.

To say that college is also important is an understatement. I can’t deny that I think in terms of potentialities. What does that mean? Well, the “what if?” of a certain event is always on my mind. I can think of a number of fears regarding college next year. For example, what happens if I end up rooming with a people I really like but who do not like me back? What happens if I find out that college-level mathematics isn’t for me or that I’m not as determined as I thought I was?

Sure, these are extremely big questions, and I’m sure you have many other fears surrounding the “C word,” and I could write a really nice list of my top ten fears, and you could comment on that. I’m totally capable of doing that! Perhaps I could go as far as providing thoroughly researched coping tips for moving in to a dorm room with other people. These are all ideas that I actually considered when I was thinking about how to write this, but they wouldn’t help you, and they wouldn’t help me. I cannot possibly anticipate the millions of different comfortable and uncomfortable situations in to which I will be thrown in college. So when all else fails, I think back to my ice-cold cafeteria.

Over the past few years, I’ve learned how to cope with small inconveniences or uncomfortable situations by reminding myself that they are just that — small and temporary. Looking at the big picture, I can’t argue that room temperature seriously affected me in trying to accomplish my goals throughout high school. So by extension I have no reason to believe that the fears I have about going to college will be anything different. Do they exist? Certainly! Will they matter? No.

Now that you’ve read this far, you might be either skeptical of my philosophy or totally convinced, but from my experience with my friends, you’ve probably bought in to what I have to say, at least a little bit. However, for some reason my words don’t register when it comes to being at college away from home or any shape or form of flying. Aah! I’ve struck a nerve in some of you! I’ve mentioned the “F word.” You can tell me all you want that “if humans were meant to fly, they would have been born with wings,” but you, sir, are not living in Ancient Greece, which is where that saying originates.

Unlike Icarus’s wings, the wings of a plane have never melted. And if you really hate flying, then why can you not call it a completely safe minor inconvenience and move on? I suspect that most of the people I meet in high school who want to “stay local” aren’t really afraid of flying. “Stay local” to me most nearly means “stay with my family,” and this is completely valid. However, I’ve had many people tell me that college is half about academics and half about being thrown out of your comfort zone. I don’t think I need to write more about this because I bet you’re pretty good at making connections, but I’ll indulge myself anyway. Staying close to your family is staying in your comfort zone.

Whatever you want to brand “it” as, staying in your comfort zone is extremely dangerous. Sure, you can live the life you always wanted within your comfort zone, but you’ll be far less adaptable when unexpected situations come up in your life, as they often do, and you might limit yourself of some amazing opportunities, such as QuestBridge.

QuestBridge is giving us the opportunity, and you’ll remember how I feel about that word if you’ve read my other blog posts, to get a world-class education for free or at an extremely low cost. The only catch is that we might have to step outside of our comfort zones, endure the possible freezing lunchrooms, and seize that education, even if it means temporarily leaving our families behind.

To end on a nice note, I’ll simply tell you what I said to my friend who was ranking her colleges a few weeks ago. I said, “When you’re at that school, be it Maryville College (which is ten miles from my high school) or be it Stanford (which is thousands of miles away from my high school), you’ll still be just as close to your parents because anyone in this lovely year, 2014, is a phone call, text, or Skype away. I considered this when I made a list of colleges, and I hope you will, too. How far away are you really? You’ll never be that disconnected from the people you love.

Collin Bentley, 2014 College Match applicant