Awhile back I found myself in a gloriously gold rented Impala on the Mass Pike, west of Springfield, headed toward the New York state line. It was just one of those days: fake blue sky, fiery leaves, twinkling sun, me pretending I can sing like Bob Dylan – the whole nine.
It also happened to be the last day of October, quota-filling frenzy day for state cops. Western mass’s unpredictable downhills and traffic-free highways were making it difficult for me to sustain my careful 72 in the 65 mph zone, and I slowly became frustrated by the attention my speed maintenance was requiring. After all, it was taking away from all the foliage-viewing and loud-singing I had on my schedule.
To remedy the situation, I considered, for maybe the first time in my life, setting the cruise control.
I scrapped the idea about five seconds later.
My thinking was this: My hands are on my wheel, I am driving this car. This is my experience, not the Impala’s.
This decidedly lame analogy is leading up to one anti-climactic piece of advice: As you go through the college search-and-destroy process, make sure to keep your hands on the wheel. By this I mean two things:
Many of you are blessed with guide book –toting parents, schlepping you from college tour to college tour, quite certain that their idea of your perfect collegiate experience precisely reflects your idea of the perfect collegiate experience.
And don’t get me wrong, your parents/guardians are great (the Holy Cross Admissions team LOVES parents). Your parents are so great that many of them are financing much of your postsecondary education. They’ve also souped you up with great features; and made sure you’ve passed all your inspections. But they’re not the ones driving.
Consider them your GPS navigation system, attempting to steer you in the right direction. But (as many of us have learned the hard way) the GPS is not always right. Sometimes, it’ll direct you into a lake. That’s when your instincts can be rather beneficial. When your hands are on the wheel, you are the song that’s playing, you are the one that follows the sign to the farm stand. You are the cloud watcher, the photographer, the ice cream seeker. Your parents might tell you how to get to the ice cream shop, but you order cookies n’ cream because your taste buds told you it’s delicious.
So keep your hands on the wheel. Pay attention to your gut when you take that campus tour. Ignore the gossip. Ignore the hype. Hone in on your pitter-patter. If a school feels right to you, it probably feels right for a reason.