As the college entrance exam scores are released, the most important decision to make next is where and what to study for the next four years or even longer.
Looking back, when my scores came out, they were far from satisfactory, and I felt disheartened. However, I didn't have the courage to retake the exam. I was lost and confused about my future plans and self-identity. I compared my scores, flipped through thick books about college choices, and switched between various websites, trying out countless combinations and permutations, contemplating which arrangement would be the best.
Regarding the future, I did have my own ideas, but they were far from being well-planned. Since I had never been to another province and I had a strong desire to explore beyond my hometown, I initially set a broad goal - to study in a different province, to set myself free and pursue freedom. I couldn't accept the big bathhouses in northern universities, so they were the first to be eliminated. Little did I know, because of my fear of big bathhouses, I missed out on many valuable opportunities. The lessons I missed out on were far more valuable than the embarrassment caused by big bathhouses. As for majors, at that time, civil engineering was still a popular and highly regarded major recommended by my elders. Although I was confused, I still had some clarity that majors like civil engineering and medicine, which were considered "prestigious" by my elders, were not suitable for me and should be excluded.
So what did I really want? Actually, I didn't have a definite answer at that time. During high school, I envied my classmates in the literature club who could write beautiful poems and essays. Because I enjoyed volunteering and reading, I became a volunteer at the library. Did that mean I wanted to pursue a major related to literature? Not really. When it came to choosing between science and humanities, I resolutely chose science because I had always felt that science had a unique charm - rules, rationality, and the ability to explain everything. On the other hand, humanities gave me the impression of being artificial and rigid, focused on memorizing and discussing heroes (of course, that's not entirely true).
At that time, I was curious and fascinated by software engineering or computer-related majors. Looking back now, it was probably because of my curiosity that I came across a lot of technology-related books and magazines in the library, which planted the seed of computer science in me. Every week, I looked forward to the latest magazines that would mention new and exciting technologies, even if they affected my studies. That sense of novelty always lingered in my mind until the moment I had to choose my major. So my first choice of major was computer-related, followed by a backup choice within the same university.
Of course, in the end, I didn't get to study computer science as I had hoped. Instead, I embarked on the path of chemistry, which was my weakest subject in the science field. In fact, even if I studied chemistry, the enlightenment of computer science was still there, and I could have switched majors or self-studied computer science. But I didn't. The reason behind it was that my interest in computer science was merely curiosity, not passion.
When it comes to considering choices for college applications, the most important thing is to think about three variables: city, university, and major. Everyone has different priorities for these three variables, and each has its own reasoning. At that time, I didn't have such a clear understanding. I just wanted to find a good university and study a major that interested me, and I didn't care much about the city. However, if we look at the long term, the city is an important variable that cannot be ignored. First-tier cities have far more resources than non-first-tier cities, whether it's in terms of academics or internships and job opportunities. But choosing a good city doesn't guarantee everything. The university is an environment where a student will spend four years of their life, and the environment has the greatest influence on a person. Whether the university is open and free or bureaucratic, every little detail will seep into a student's bones and influence the formation of their values, outlook on life, and worldview. As for the major, it is the dimension most closely related to the student. I believe that having interest in the major is the most important factor because it may determine a person's future career. With interest, even the most difficult tasks can be enjoyable, but without interest, even the simplest tasks can be a struggle.
In this sense, the optimal choice would be a top-tier university in a first-tier city with a major of interest. This is a common understanding, but not everyone has that choice, so it's just a cliché. My suggestion is that for those who have a clear understanding of themselves, they can prioritize the major, followed by the city, and then the university. For those who, like me, are confused about the future and have no clear interest, prioritize the university first, then the city, and finally the major. The university is a small environment that influences a student's physical and mental development, while the city is a larger environment that determines a person's career prospects. As for the major, it may only be a brief encounter of four years, never to be seen again, or it could be a lifelong companion, full of both bitterness and beauty.
I highly recommend that students who are currently feeling lost take a look at Zhu Guangqian's "Twelve Letters to Young People." The book covers various topics, and the chapter on "Choosing a College and Selecting Courses" is particularly well-written and worth reading.