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Applying to college is eye-opening
May 03, 2014, 05:00 AM By Janani Kumar

My writing of this column is something of a symbolic checkpoint in my life. I hope anyone reading can take away a little piece of advice or make some connection to their own lives.

Though you are reading this in May, I am writing this piece on Wednesday, April 30 — also known as the last day to make an informed decision about where you are going to register for college. I am proud to say I have made my decision of where I will be in the fall; however, the journey was not at all how I expected it to be.

When I started my college search at the end of sophomore year, I was so confident I wanted to leave home and go far away to the East Coast. I went college touring and looked at many colleges at the other end of the country. I thought I didn’t want to stay anywhere near home, so I almost dismissed the idea of seeing colleges on the West Coast. At the end of junior year, my parents convinced me to see more colleges close to home and, though I still wanted to go to Boston or New York, I was warming up to the idea that I might be more comfortable in California. When it finally came time to narrow down my list of colleges, it occurred to me it wasn’t practical to try and apply to every single college I had ever considered.

But I was stuck. I didn’t know how to narrow my list down. I was at that in-between stage of wanting a drastic change in setting, versus moving just slightly out of my comfort zone. I was also conflicted because my entire life — all my friends and activities — were near home and I didn’t want to have to forgo them all by moving to the East Coast. I couldn’t imagine giving up my dance, for which I have worked 11 years, or my music, for which I have worked eight years. I think that became the final deciding factor for me. I had seen all my friends go to colleges far away and have to quit their extracurriculars, and I realized that I valued my activities too highly to risk losing them all. This was the point at which I decided not to apply to most of the colleges I had seen back East.

In retrospect, seeing all those colleges was probably a decision I made in haste in an attempt to escape my 18 years of living in California. Nevertheless, I was accepted to a school I wanted to attend on the East Coast and my parents and I made a trip to see it. I so badly wanted to love it. I was so excited to be able to visit it but, to my dismay, I ended up not liking it enough to take the offer.

Back home, I visited a few colleges that I hadn’t been familiar with previously. I didn’t know any of their programs and, having been accepted, thought it best to find out firsthand how much I would like it as a student. After a few “failed attempts,” I stepped foot onto the college which I will now attend and, cheesy as it sounds, everything felt right. The programs, the community, the weather, the proximity to the airport. I felt like I fit right in.

This brings me back to my main idea for telling you this (arguably crazy) story: what I recommend to all students now embarking on this roller coaster of a voyage. Don’t put limitations on yourself. Explore all your options, even if you think you know exactly where you want to end up. I’m so glad I did and I am so excited to start this new chapter in my life. It has been one crazy journey but, now that I am at its tail end, I wish all you incoming seniors luck and hope that my sharing this story has helped you in one way or another in searching for your perfect college.

Janani Kumar is a senior at Burlingame High School. Student News appears in the weekend edition. You can email Student News at



Tags: colleges, college, didn, wanted, coast, which,

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