Posted by Nathan Hall on Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Writer’s Note: I struggled immensely with this article, as witnessed by the time between my last post and this one. Trying to pin down a reason for why I chose Vanderbilt really just ended up frustrating me, since, unfortunately, I was unable to come up with a bulleted list. Sorry, everyone!
Tis the season to choose a college for high school seniors, and, as someone who once chose a college, I understand the stress that accompany such a decision. I have two obligations here:
1. Obligation as a Vanderbilt blogger – To tell you about why I chose Vanderbilt (and why you should too!)
2. Obligation as me – To tell you about why and how people make choices (and why everyone should be aware of this stuff!)
We’ll go in that order.
My college decision process was less extensive than that of many of my friends – I only ended up completing applications for three schools, largely because I applied to Vanderbilt Early Decision. In that respect, my choice was made for me – Once I got in, I was contractually required to attend!
A friend of mine from my high school days came to Vanderbilt when I was a high school junior, around the time that college applications really appeared on my radar. I wasn’t entirely sure, but I was fairly confident in my desire to do engineering (mechanical, in particular), and I had decided to apply for an Air Force or Army ROTC scholarship (military service is sort of a family thang). Anyhow, the positive reviews I heard from my Vandy friend definitely attracted me, and I ended up touring the campus near the end of my junior year (as well as interviewing with the head of the ROTC department).
Frankly, the campus was awesome. I will admit that I was less than open-minded to other schools after visiting Vanderbilt first; Georgia Tech, for instance, has an exceedingly well-designed and maintained campus, but toured via comparison rather than viewing the school on its own merits. The ROTC department at Vanderbilt was ranked second in the nation when I came to interview, and our tour guide (who would later prove to be the Battalion Commander for my first year in ROTC) was incredibly helpful and informative. Listing all these factors, though, while perhaps serving as justification for my decision, doesn’t actually explain the turning point at which I decided Vanderbilt was right for me. I think that’s because the decision was more of a gut call than anything – It seemed like the place to go, so I went for it!
The brain is crazy. Right now, as you are struggling to decide whether to come to Vanderbilt (or apply, if you’re a wee junior!), it may seem like the best choice to lay out a chart, come up with some variables, and very rationally and numerically compare your options. Unfortunately, there’s bad news ahead – that’s a bad idea!
University of Southern California neuro-scientist Antoine Bechara was featured on an episode of Radio Lab, a preposterously cool radio show/podcast about a variety of science topics, to tell a story on choice. One of Bechara’s patients, Elliot, had a tumor in his orbitofrontal cortex removed; this part of the brain is used for decision-making and emotion. After the operation, Elliot found himself having trouble making even the most trivial of decisions (Blue or black ink to sign this paper?), a difficulty caused by his sudden inability to apply emotion or “gut feelings” to his decision-making. Essentially, making a decision entirely rationally (or Vulcan-ally) is not the way we’re designed to work!
Hopefully with your newfound awareness of decision-making and the excellent resources on Vandy that my fellow bloggers have provided, you can feel at ease with making the right decision – Vanderbilt!
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