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Should I Fly Solo or Take a Copilot?

Acrophobia: The fear of heights. Aerophobia: The fear of flying. Agoraphobia: The fear of open spaces. What's the fear of being alone? Not quite sure, but it often becomes a major issue in choosing a college. You wonder: Should I fly solo or take a copilot? Here are some hypothetical situations that may occur:

1. Jack and Jill were best friends since preschool and decided to go to the same college. Once they arrived at Anywhere University, they found themselves isolated from the rest of the intermingling crowd. Soon, Jack became bored and wanted to make new friends, but Jill hated the school and didn't want to get involved in any of the cool campus clubs. The result: They parted ways and had a miserable college experience.

2. Another Jack and Jill, who went to school together their whole lives, also headed off to the same college. Both made friends independently, joined different clubs, but planned their schedules together, making sure they could meet for lunch at least once a week. They loved their college experience!

3. Yet another Jack and Jill have been friends forever, but decided to attend separate schools. Jack is miserable because his drama classes are filled with sockless freaks and there aren't any smiling faces at the coffee bar during his break. He wishes he went to school with Jill, who, on the other hand, has made so many new friends that she doesn't even want to return home. Of course, she still makes time to e-mail Jack and can't wait to see him again on break.

What kind of Jack and Jill story will you have to tell your children? Here's mine...

I went to the same elementary and high school as my two closest friends. We all ended up at the same school, ironically, unplanned because I did not want to go to St. Francis College, Brooklyn, NY. I really wanted to go away and not commute, but a full scholarship kept me there. It was nice to know, however, that there would always be someone else taking the B train with me, and I wouldn't look like a loser sipping my latte at Starbucks alone. But eventually my college clique began to part ways. We all developed different interests and grew apart. One of my friends even transferred to another college.

Now, as a junior, I have made great friends and even joined a couple of clubs as a result of branching out and leaving my high school hood. Instead of crying every day that I hate school, I go home with funny stories about the day I've had. And best of all, my GPA has gone up. My only regret is that I allowed myself to be isolated from the rest of the St. Francis community my first two years, not realizing that college is really a time of change. Though it's wonderful to have lifelong friends, I've come to realize that the friends you make in college are the ones you'll have for life.

Of course, bringing friends aboard isn't always a flight risk. Here's what other students have to say...

"Me and my best friend Annie went our separate ways the first year, which worked out well. We have since wound up rooming together and will be roommates the rest of our college careers. It was good to go our separate ways as freshmen. We were able to meet more people."
--Natalie Allen, Ohio University, Athens, OH

"I've been best friends with Danielle since I was 7 years old. At first I was reluctant to leave for school because I didn't think I was ready for it and I was worried about losing all my friends. But I left for Penn State, and guess what? My relationship with Danielle has endured. True friends can't be separated by distance ... they're in your heart wherever you go."
--Lisa Marmorotta, Penn State University, Hazelton, PA

"At college I roomed with my high school friend, Joe. He'd grown up in a pretty strict family, so when he got to school he went nuts. He sat around all semester getting high on cough medicine and skipping class. Once when I was in the room studying, he was lying on his bed from sucking up too much of his asthma medicine -- on purpose. His next words: 'Dude, I can't feel my feet.' It turned out to be a semester of 'Dazed and Confused' until he was kicked out of school for legal problems."
--Kevin Gray, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, New Albany, IN

"I came to college without any friends and was paired with your typical horror-story roommate. I only stuck it out because I was able to go home on the weekends and hang out with my friends.

"When my sophomore year arrived, I was somehow able to convince my best friend, Hanna, to come to college with me. We've been best friends since we were 8 years old, and when she came to Berry as my roomie, everything changed. I made some of the best friends in my life just because I felt comfortable again. The same people who lived in my dorm the year before lived there my sophomore year, and I had people tell me they even remembered me from freshman year. The truth is it's just easier to be yourself when someone else there knows who you are."
--Ali Meder, Berry College, Mount Berry, CA

"One of my classmates from high school came to Dickinson with me two years ago and now we don't even talk to each other. The lesson I learned is that high school friends are different than your college friends. When you make new friends in college, you're forced to get to know them, live with them, and accept them for everything they are because you're around them 24/7."
--Jason Watkins, Dickinson College, Carlisle, PA

"I graduated from a relatively small high school in the suburbs of PA. I was hoping to get into the University of Pennsylvania. I told one of my good friends and her response was, 'Pat, maybe you should think about applying to some other schools, too.' I gave her a look of confusion as to why wouldn't I get accepted. After the brief minute of ignorant bliss, I realized that this could be a reality. In a state of panic, I quickly asked her where she was applying and decided that I would apply there, too.

"Dickinson's policy regarding freshman housing is that no one is housed together if they are from the same area or community. So my friend ended up living across campus and I was stuck in a dorm filled with 40 other people I didn't know. To make matters worse, my friend left two days after we moved in for orientation because she missed home too much. All of my other friends were at big universities and already knew at least 20 people, some even rooming with friends, and poor me, I am all alone.

"But then it dawned on me: This was a new beginning, a new start. By going on my own, I became more of an individual and was better able to cope with the social issues of meeting new people.

"If I had to do it again I wouldn't change a thing. College is all about meeting new people and having new experiences. By going to school with the friends you knew, you limit your possibilities and chances for a brand new start."
--Patrick Hitchens, Dickinson College, Carlisle, PA

Reasons to Fly Solo
• You'll always be on time (unless you're the one who makes your friend late).
• You won't have to fight over the hot guy or girl in chemistry.
• You can compete for the highest grade in philosophy without hurting your pal's feelings.
• Extra time to study -- and sometimes study groups turn into best buds.
• No one will ever know that your nickname in high school was Booger McGee.

Reasons to Take a Copilot
• You won't be the only one dressed like you are.
• If you drive, you can carpool and share expenses.
• No need to fear you'll end up with a hygienically challenged roommate.
• You won't walk into the first day of Freshman Comp sporting a sneaker with a toilet paper tail.
• If you forget who you are, someone will be there to remind you.