The best advice I have been given in the past few months was that “my next step is not my final step”. Searching for schools has been a feat that I never expected to be this difficult. Finding myself in the same position four years later is absolutely exhausting. The standardized testing, worrying about grades and current classwork, extracurriculars, resume building, recommendations..the list seems never ending. But some day it is all worth it. You will look back four years from now, like I am, and wonder how you got by..but you did. By proud of that.

I’ve learned that one thing is so important in this whole process of searching for your next step: do not continually ask for advice because you want to take stake in what other people say without forming your own, personally formed opinion about what YOU want to do with YOUR life. Remember that it is YOUR life. It doesn’t matter what makes the most money or what suffices the wants of the people you consider closest to you. If it matters to you, DO IT.

Choosing the University of Dayton was a difficult choice for me. I never wanted to go to school where I grew up because I knew it would make me too comfortable. I thought wrong. Sure, I know where the nearest stores are and I can give you directions to anywhere you need to go, but I can promise you that if you don’t want to be comfortable, you won’t be. Comfortability is your choice. If you don’t want that, you can join things to put yourself out there. Just because your top choice school is where you grew up does NOT mean you will be tied there forever.

That’s where I find myself today. Choosing a graduate program is difficult because I’ve been going to school with my two grade school best friends my entire life. I met the greatest mentors that saved my life at UD. It almost hurts my heart to leave a place I’ve learned to love so much, but I know that staying here will only hold me back. It hurts my heart that my best friends will be so far from me, but what I have learned is that you have to choose what’s best for you. If those people you’re scared of leaving really care about you, then you’re not leaving a thing behind. You’re always taking a piece of them with you.

Weigh the pros and cons. Do everything that you’d do for any other difficult decision. My best advice is to listen to your heart and soul. Don’t ask others for advice so that you can people please the rest of your life. Do you love them? Of course. That doesn’t mean you have to do what they think is best for your life. Do what you want to do. This is your life. Own it.

Pray about it. Connect yourself with who you think you want to be four more years from now. Take the action steps now to get there. Make your goals and make them measurable. Someday you will look back, four years from now, and thank yourself for choosing yourself.

You may not have much, but at least you have yourself. Don’t lose that.