In high school, applying for colleges was The Most Stressful experience that I, and many of us, could imagine. And getting my college acceptance letters touched off my first Crisis of Indecision. It was the first big decision I'd made in my life. I remember sitting in my college counselor's office getting melodramatic about how this was going to shape the course of the rest of my life – who I married, who my lifelong college buddies would be, my career, and absolutely everything else. It was the first time I could see paths branching off and knew I could choose only one.
Looking back now, that whole crisis seems way overblown. Especially because at the end I was choosing between Middlebury and Dartmouth. For sure, those are very different animal (house)s (Quidditch vs. Greek life) but, let's be real, they are both highly-ranked liberal arts colleges in neighboring New England states.
And in a way, that wasn't a real decision. There was no question in my mind that I was going to college then. I never really considered a gap year – the thought probably crossed my mind, but the power of going through the same experiences at the same time as my peers was too strong. So it was like ordering something off a menu instead of choosing a restaurant.
Oh man, I so wish that looking for jobs and apartments was anything like the college application process. Where you search around, find ones you like, apply to a smattering by a common deadline, and as long as you throw in a few safeties you're sure to get thing, if not your first choice. With jobs and apartments, there are no guarantees and there are time pressures, too. Sometimes you have to jump on something before you've had the chance to consider all the options, because the options disappear after a couple days on Craigslist or the job is looking for a yes ASAP.
And, of course, on top of that there are what feel limitless options for paths in life. There's going to grad school or not, and getting married or not and to who, or staying in the same job or career vs. exploring a new one or four, and going abroad or choosing from any number of awesome cities in the US. (Not that those are necessarily on the table right now.) Making choices about a new apartment + thinking about all the other big choices adulthood entails = more than a little overwhelming.
At the very least, applying to grad schools will be like applying to college. So check back with me then to see if I still think it's so fun and easy. :)