Listen to Your Heart – The Story of My College Search
Usually most of my posts are about how wonderful Vanderbilt is and stories of all of the amazing experiences I have had in my 3 years here so far, however, have you ever thought about how not too long ago, I was in your shoes? I was visiting a bunch of campuses and trying to decide which school was right for me, just like you have been doing. I was a very confused junior and senior in high school, attempting to plan out the next 4 years of my life; very important years in fact where I would hopefully develop a sense of who I was as a person, discover my meaning in this world, make a life-changing medical discovery, solve world hunger, or maybe just come out with a job and few scratches in the end. Whatever I did in the next 4 years was going to become a part of who I was, and you are blessed with the great opportunity to be able to lay out your own personal roadmap for what you want out of the next 4 years. When I came to Vanderbilt I was looking for a whole new world where I could start fresh in a new city and at an amazing school – and that is exactly what I found. Again, I could go on for hours about how much I love this school, but anyways… back to my own search process.
In my family I am the oldest of two, so no one had ever been through the search process before and we weren’t quite sure where to start. My dad had played football at Wake Forest University and I had been born and raised a hard-core Deacs fan, attending almost every football and basketball game since I was born. So I knew that Wake was definitely on my list; but after that I didn’t really know where else to look.
We decided that we would start with the family history route and make a trip to Nashville to visit my grandfather’s alma mater, Vanderbilt University. Being the first campus tour I had ever
taken, I wasn’t quite sure what to think when I was done. Our tour guide had been really nice and informative; the campus was gorgeous; the Human and Organizational Development major they had sounded pretty cool; Nashville was bigger than Winston, which seemed fun, but I really had no idea what I was looking for.
Well this unknowingness led me and my mother, and sometimes my brother, dad or a friend, to 18 more college campuses all throughout the South East; Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. After that, I struggled just to keep them all separated in my mind, but eventually I began to narrow down my search. I started with my first impressions of the school; there were definitely a few schools I looked at where I just didn’t get a good vibe. It sounds silly, but it is definitely something you can feel once you have visited so many campuses. Second on my list was size; I wanted to be able to walk across campus and to my classes without having to get on a bus. This knocked out a few, but I still had about 12 schools that I was thinking about applying to.
In the next few months I was able to narrow it down more based on a major I wanted, its location, whether a lot of kids from my high school were going there or not, their sports teams, and many other factors. Eventually in September of my senior year I had my list narrowed down to 6 schools. They were still fairly varied in what they had to offer, but I knew that I would be happy at any of them. This was when I decided that I needed to go back to a few and check them out one more time.
Yet again, Vanderbilt was the first school that I went back to. I spent the night with a friend of a friend, went to one of her classes and hung out with her and her friends for the night. In the morning I knew that Vanderbilt was the place I had to spend my next 4 years! Like I said, I could see myself being happy at those other schools, but I absolutely knew that I would be even happier at Vanderbilt. When I got back to the hotel, I told my mom that when we got home I was sending in my Early Decision application and that I was going to Vanderbilt – them denying me was not even an option in my mind.
There was only one problem. When I got home and told my college counselor about my experience, she didn’t think I should apply early. I have yet to understand her reasoning behind this statement, but it doesn’t really matter now does it? I went against her advice, and sent in my application in anyways. Let me tell you, it was a great day in December when I walked into her office and showed her my letter of acceptance into Vanderbilt! It was a long and arduous process filled with long road trips and rainy campus tours, but in the end it led me to one of the places I now call home, Vanderbilt.
One thing that I learned from this whole process was that you truly have to listen to your own heart about where you want to go to school. Everywhere I turned there were tour guides, admissions counselors, old alumni, and current students telling me that I would love it at whatever school I was currently visiting. But I was the one who was going to spend the next 4 years there; I was the one who would be living in the dorm; I was the one who would be walking across campus to class; I was the one who would be making some of the best friends I ever had; and I was the one who was going to live out every second of every day at that school, not them. I had to find the place that was the best fit for ME and where I would feel the happiest. You, the student, are the one who will be living this new life, not your parents or your high school counselor. So the best advice I can give you is to picture yourself on every campus you visit and see if it is a picture that you like to see, and a picture that you want to look at and live in for the next 4 years.