Hold the Advice, However Well-Intended

By ERIK BATES
The Choice Blog
THE ENVELOPE, PLEASE

Erik

Age: 18
Hometown: Ada, Mich.
High School: Forest Hills Eastern High School
Applications: 7

I have never been quite sure what to make of the usual “you should go to this college” comment. Usually it comes from former classmates — those a year ahead of me, enjoying their freshman year at any one of many exciting colleges.

Now that I have committed to attend Michigan State, I do not receive idle suggestions like I did before, when nearly every encounter with missed friends brought more inconsequential tips for the best places to attend. It was almost always their schools they were plugging.

Ultimately, I question why these former classmates, some close and others not as much, would be so quick to recommend their own college choice. For that matter, why do I receive the same from current seniors, or even from the commenters on this very blog?

To be sure, I greatly appreciate any and all input, but I sometimes struggle to discern the motivation behind it. The many who praise their own school rarely provide a justification beyond, “It’s awesome!”

Furthermore, with large schools like Michigan and Michigan State, more distant friends would likely lose contact even if I were to join them on campus.

Do they seek a reassurance that they themselves made the correct choice? Or are they so overrun with enjoyment as to start recruiting? After all, if I considered every positive comment I received, I would have to believe all colleges are simply fantastic.

At a certain point, I realized a common thread: none of my recruiters were those closest to me. To put it another way, the people who know me best were the last to recommend a school. Apparently, suggesting that “you should spend your thousands upon thousands of dollars here” becomes easier with less familiarity.

Too often, I fear, humans try to persuade others which route in life is best. The college decision is a fine example of this. For me, and for most others, I suspect, the most helpful advice has been that which advocates for self-knowledge rather than boasts the credentials of a particular school.

Plenty of people have shared their suggestions, and I value all of them.

Nevertheless, the final decision resulted from only my own considerations. Any college choice may be the right one; it simply has to fit the individual.

Next year, recalling this post, I’ll be the college-loving freshman who will never tell people that they should necessarily come to my university. Instead, I will ask them who they are and what is important to them — the essential questions.

Life is not about making choices; it’s about knowing who’s making them.

Accepted To Waiting For Rejected From
University of Michigan M.I.T.
Michigan State Harvard
Oklahoma State Stanford
Princeton

https://thechoice.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/04/26/envelope-bates-4/