Choosing Your University and Next Step with Confidence: A How To Guide

I have spent quite a bit of time with my seniors who are in the midst of making a…well…REALLY big decision. And that can be daunting. Because this time next year, they’ll be in a completely different space. A different living space, with a new roommate, maybe a new climate, new city and new surroundings. That’s pretty terrifying. It can be downright scary to decide on where that giant next step is in your life. And it doesn’t feel comfortable. Why would it? It’s new. It’s different. It’s the unknown. But you know what? That’s the BEST part. 

When I look back at my life, the moments that were the MOST uncomfortable; the situations that felt so new I didn’t even know where to step one foot first; the room I walked into feeling so underprepared for; ended up being a culmination of my GREATEST moments. I want to travel back in time and tell…no yell…at myself to stand a little taller, walk in with confidence, ASK for what I needed and EXPERIENCE the moment. Because new is scary. Uncomfortable is scary and what is EVEN scarier is staying stagnant. Paralyzed in comfortability. What’s comfortable is just that…comfortable. Not growth, not challenge, not life changing, not anything. It just is. And that’s kind of boring.

What’s kind of exciting about attending a new university is you can bet almost every other Freshman feels the same way. You may be logging onto the Facebook groups and searching profiles for future dorm roommates and student groups and thinking…huh…this person really has it together. They don’t seem nervous at all. REMIND yourself that they are JUST AS SCARED as you are. Curating a profile on social media is not the same as OWNING yourself, in all your feelings of doubt, worry, anxiousness and nervousness. It’s just not. So please remind yourself of this fact as you start to build a narrative in your head about the new people and experiences you will meet and begin to have. YOU control the narrative. If that narrative is one of I can’t, I’m not enough, I’m not smart enough, cool enough, pretty enough, whatever not enough you tell yourself, then that’s what it’ll be. Create a mental shift.

Start a new narrative. One that accepts the newness and uncomfortable awkwardness of am unknown journey ahead of you. Accept that you will make mistakes and those mistakes are just new bits of information as you learn about yourself and what you want out of the world. Create a narrative that is open and present to the incredible opportunities that have the ability to become life-changing. A narrative that believes in the power of your new awesomeness.

Join the club, dive into the new groups, and know that it may take some before you settle in, so don’t give up. Own your decision in the university you decide. Others around you WILL have opinions on your college choices, but they are just that…OPINIONS. NOT facts that destine your life…unless you let it. You will choose and attend a university that is right for YOU. And that’s the only opinion you really need to listen to. YOUR OWN.

Everyone is giving me an opinion about where I should go and I’m having a hard time making that final decision. What should I do? 

I have had conversations with students stopped in between two universities. Feeling stuck as they try to make the BIG final one. My advice?


You have spent the last year, probably even more, researching and having conversations with your friends, family, counselors, teachers, really anyone within arms length who knows you were applying to college and have received constant unsolicited advice. Just typing that sentence made me feel exhausted. Now you’re down to the final few weeks before committing to a university and scrambling for any and all opinions that will give you the AHA moment that will allow you to KNOW the final answer and choose your university of attendance.

Here’s the deal. You HAVE to quiet the noise. No one sentence or one person is going to give you the golden ticket which contains the right answer. You find the answer WITHIN YOURSELF. You do that by quieting the noise.

Ask for a timeout in the college conversation. Go for a walk, schedule a yoga class, listen to music, go on a hike, go to the beach, ask for space. Literally schedule something that takes you away from others and an excuse to get quiet. When others start to give you their opinions, come up with a standard response that acknowledges the other person, but does not engage. For example:

“Jenny, have you decided on where you’re going next year yet? I heard that University of fill in blank here has such crazy parties, you wouldn’t want that would you?” 

“Jenny, I can’t believe you’re even considering fill in university here, I’ve never even heard of that, obviously you should choose fill in university here!” 

Standard response that acknowledges the other person, but does not engage example:

“I really appreciate your support and I’m excited about finding the college that I see myself fitting the best in, which I know will bring me such amazing new experiences.” 

Whatever your standard response is, thank the person and move on.

If you’re REALLY deciding between two universities and just feel paralyzed.

Decide to attend one for the day. Don’t actually deposit to the university, but just wake up in the morning and decide…today I am attending X University. Feel it, think it, envision it. If anyone asks you say with conviction your university of choice for the day and SEE HOW IT FEELS. Reflect on your day. Did you REALLY miss your other choice? Did you have a FEELING of panic like you wanted to reverse your decision? Or did you FEEL amazing and rarely thought of the other university.

Go with your feelings. Quiet the noise. Stop searching for answers outside of yourself and start looking inward. And when you have made that final decision…feel CONFIDENT in your choice and own it, because that’s you’re new narrative. Owning the scary. Tackling the new. Taking over the unknown. Get it.



Published by Casey Barneson

Author of The College Wellness Guide. Beverly Hills High School College Counselor.

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