Why VU? Finding Your Path
I want to let you in on a little secret: the years you spend in college are going to be some of those most exciting of your life. You are stepping out on your own into the world, collecting experiences like limited edition stamps and trying on different lives for size until you find the paths and the passions that will maximize your academic, professional, and personal potential. Most importantly, you will be surrounded by thousands of other young people doing the exact same thing.
At every corner in the university experience, Vanderbilt strives to provide a sense of balance and a range of options that will help you explore all of your abilities. We have a picturesque walking campus in the middle of a thriving urban metropolis. We have the academic rigor of a top 20 university and the athletic distinction of a Division I SEC program. We have 120 renowned on-campus research centers and a strong liberal arts core in all four undergraduate schools.
These opportunities are not here to confuse or overwhelm you, but to allow you to carve your own unique niche in the Vanderbilt community. In the next installment of our “Why VU?” series, sophomore Nathan Hall of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, tells us how he has taken advantage of his time at Vanderbilt, from pursing a Mechanical Engineering and Mathematics double major, to showing off his mad writing skills via the Inside ‘Dores blog, to participating in community service and ROTC.
What were your deciding factors in choosing to enroll at Vanderbilt?
To me, Vanderbilt represented the best option as a holistic picture. No other school offered the extremely high-caliber engineering and math departments, the number and breadth of student organizations, and the opportunities for off-campus exploration. Nashville is such a vibrant city with events and concerts and interesting places to visit, as well as being within driving distance of a number of beautiful state parks. If you want to escape the stress of schoolwork, it’s so easy to jump off campus, but I never feel like I’m in the middle of a city when I’m walking around Vanderbilt. It’s an amazing combination of insulation and opportunity! As for the classes, they’re definitely difficult, but we get to learn from and research with extraordinary professors at a top 20 school – that kind of education is invaluable!
What surprised you about Vanderbilt?
Attending Vanderbilt has been a constantly surprising and humbling experience for me. The people you go to classes with every day are some of the brightest, most innovative, most talented people in the world. Patented inventors, professional musicians, lab researchers and licensed pilots are just some of the incredible undergraduates you’ll interact with every day, not to mention the nationally recognized athletes and the numerous other high achievers. No matter how much I heard about this phenomenon before Vanderbilt, actually coming to school and meeting and befriending some of these amazing people has been an extraordinary and unexpected experience.
Tell us about one or two significant academic experiences you have had here at Vanderbilt.
This semester I took ME 204, Mechatronics, a course focusing on the combination of mechanical, electrical, and computer engineering to create programmable systems. Our final project was to imagine, design, build, wire, and code an “interesting” system. After plenty of deliberation (and a lot of Google searches), I settled on a knock-recognizing lockbox, which would unlock and open itself upon receiving the correct pattern of knocks on the lid. The project ended up being extremely time-consuming and hugely stressful, but definitely ranks among the single most rewarding tasks I’ve ever undertaken, mostly because of how much I feel like I invested. The project was mine from conception to completion, and I’ve been running around making all my friends try it out since the presentation!
Tell us about some opportunities you have taken advantage of outside of the classroom while at Vanderbilt.
Throughout high school, I, much like many other Vanderbilt students, was heavily involved in extracurricular activities ranging from the Philosophy Club to theater. At Vanderbilt, I’ve been privileged to find membership (and, recently, leadership!) in several organizations. With Vanderbilt Red Cross, an organization I joined this year, I’ve helped out at multiple blood drives and volunteered at the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center. Army ROTC has sent me hither and yon on a number of very cool trips, including a marathon ruck march in New Mexico and two weeks at the Sabalauski Air Assault School – The list goes on and on! In short, Vanderbilt gives its students almost innumerable opportunities for out-of-class exploration, service, social activities, and much more.
What is your favorite thing about living in Nashville?
Living in any large city comes with the perks of accessibility for things like different restaurants (there are a bunch of fun, trendy cafes and eateries around campus) and activities (we have so many sports teams and special events that it would be impossible to go enjoy them all), but Nashville is special to me because of its music. If you can think of an artist you want to see live, chances are, they’ll come to Nashville! As someone who doesn’t enjoy country, I can vouch for Nashville as a great place to see plenty of other kinds of artists in some awesome venues.
If you could give one piece of advice to high school students making their college decision, what would it be?
Don’t be afraid to go big! On my first night of college, my floor’s RA told us that during our time at Vanderbilt, we would all fail at something, and that we should use that experience to grow. Never let fear of failure or trepidation at being challenged push you away from making a decision – find a school that will give you opportunities and challenges, and you will not regret your choice!