Breathe easy: It’s decision time for colleges

It’s fingernail-biting season, as college application responses are arriving in mailboxes of nervous high school seniors awaiting the biggest decision of their lives.

Traditionally, the last letters arrive on April 1 and conventional wisdom says fat envelopes contain good news, while skinny ones are rejections. That’s not necessarily true, but it doesn’t make the waiting any easier.

Whatever happens, take a deep breath. This is only the start of an incredible journey.

It’s hard to fathom now, after months of preparation and anxiety, but getting accepted into college only gets you to the starting line. It’s what happens in the next four years that really matters.

A growing body of research suggests that making the most of college is far more important than where you went to college. In his recent book, “Where You Go is Not Who You’ll Be,” New York Times columnist Frank Bruni writes that job recruiters today are more interested in college grads’ experience than their academic pedigree.

It’s an approach cultivated and cherished at Michigan’s top 15 independent colleges and universities. Sure, they’re proud of their academics. And rightly so: They’re second to none, offering small class sizes taught by faculty who are experts in their fields.

But the schools excel at helping students follow their passions. Students are part of a dynamic community that includes influential alumni who can help chart their path, rather than follow the crowds.

Often less expensive than public institutions, the independents boast higher four-year graduation rates and smaller class sizes for a truly unique and affordable experience.

Be bold. Be different. Go independent.