I have basically wanted to go to college since I was born. Even in middle school, I was WAY too concerned about my grades and, after the summer before my eighth grade year, I knew where I was going (well, wanted to go) to school: The University of Chicago. I first visited the school when my sister and cousin were looking at schools. While my sister didn’t really want to go there, it was my uncle’s alma mater, so my cousin wanted to check it out. She ended up not entirely falling in love with it, but I did. It was everything I thought I wanted: a beautiful campus within a city, close to home but not too close, a good English program, a quirky/hipster vibe (oh, middle school me), and rigorous coursework.
Nothing much changed for a few years; Chicago remained my dream school and I didn’t think about many others (other than Michigan, where, as it was my state school, I was obliged to apply). Actually, looking back, I didn’t know much about any other schools. My school solely pushed our local community college and was hardly helpful for anyone interested in other prospects. Then the phenomenon most college applicants face happened: the bombardment of mailings and emails. Suddenly, I realized all of the possibilities.
In March of junior year, every student takes the ACT as part of a statewide three-part test. At that point, my college list was expansive—almost twenty schools—and I knew my scores had to be pretty high to go where I wanted. However, I have never really known how to study for standardized tests, so I didn’t really prepare. To my surprise, though, I did well enough to supposedly get into the colleges I wanted. (Small side rant: My entire college application process was plagued by the notion that if you had the grades, scores, and some leadership roles, you would get into any school you wanted. Whenever I was stressing out about a decision coming out, people would simply say, “You’re valedictorian, you could, like, get into Harvard.” It’s unfortunately not true, my friends.)
I had visited a few of the schools closer to home, but I had my eyes set on Chicago or the East Coast, so my mother and I packed up and took a nine-day spring break trip to visit nine colleges out East. For a second time, my eyes were opened. After spending Easter exploring Boston, I fell in love with the city again and the thought crossed my mind that maybe I would be happier there than in Chicago. Unfortunately, out of the two colleges I visited, I only fell in love with one: Tufts University. Again, another good English program, a campus near a city, etc.
A few days later, we went to New York City and we visited three more colleges I liked: Columbia University, Barnard College, and New York University. I was surprised by my love for NYU—it wasn’t anything like I originally wanted. I had my mind set on a sort of oasis of a campus within a city, and NYU isn’t that; it is entirely integrated into the city. Suddenly, my plan was thrown into question. What I thought I wanted might not actually be what I wanted, and it scared me.
I started to question everything. Junior year honestly took a major toll on me: not academically, but socially and emotionally. I didn’t know anymore what was right for me, but the idea that my dream school was a bad idea started to form in my mind. Thankfully everything was about to change—all because of a program known as the National Student Leadership Conference.
NSLC is a program focused on leadership within specific career areas. I had found out I was nominated to go earlier in the year and my mother really wanted me to go, so all I had to do was pick a program. I ended up with the Journalism, Film, and Media Arts program because I had a small, budding interest in film and it was the closest related to writing, which is what I wanted to do at the time.
A funny thing happened at NSLC. I found a new confidence and I was introduced to a field I had never truly considered: Communications. Like many, I was under the impression that it was a field for people who wanted an easy out—at least that’s what some of my extended family told me when I talked about it.
At NSLC is where two new colleges popped up: Boston University and Emerson College. Most of the team advisors had applied to Emerson and one was attending BU. Fascinated by Communications, I added both schools to my list.
I got home from Washington, D.C. (where the conference was), and started a horrible method of procrastinating from applying to colleges: The West Wing. While I do regret how much I procrastinated, I don’t regret watching it, because it made me realize what exactly I wanted to do within the Communications field: Political Communications, specifically speechwriting.
I ended up applying to eight schools, and got into five: Michigan, BU, Barnard, NYU, and Emerson. At that point, I thought I knew where I wanted to go, but I still hadn’t visited BU or Emerson. NYU was my new dream, but it was expensive and had no Communications program. I no longer really wanted to stay close to home, so I didn’t really want to go to Michigan, but it was the cheapest option. Barnard was a strange beast for me. I liked it, and it was a good school with a good Political Science program, but I didn’t know how I would fare at a women’s college and I wasn’t in love with it. Emerson was honestly towards the bottom of my list.
Needing to visit BU and Emerson, my mom and I went back to Boston for a weekend to attend both of their accepted student days. Emerson was first and I was in love. It was in such an amazing location, the people were incredible, the mock class was awesome, and our tour guide practically sealed the deal. She was a political communications major, so I asked her why she chose Emerson’s program over a traditional Poli Sci/Comm combination. The reason she gave was literally everything. She said she wasn’t interested in being a politician; she wanted to work behind the scenes, and that’s more what Emerson offered. And that’s what I wanted.
The next day, we went to BU and I was nervous. I was in love with Emerson, but BU was better known in my eyes. The visit, though, made it clear that it wasn’t where I wanted to be. The people were great, but the Communications program was way too focused on advertising. After the tour of the Communications building, I didn’t even want to see the rest of the campus—I knew it wasn’t where I wanted to be.
We talked for a while and I knew it was going to be Emerson. It was a complete change from my original plan, but it was where I saw myself. After a long conversation at our hotel, it was Emerson. With the scholarship I got for getting into the Honors program, it wasn’t only my first choice, it was also affordable.
We returned home and I started second guessing everything again. I loved Emerson but with what people were saying to me about Communications being a bad idea, I started to think that I should choose a different school. Everyone had the idea that a brand name school was a better choice and that a more selective school would mean a more successful life (neither of which are necessarily true). One night, it all became too much for me to handle and I broke down. Then my mom sent me a picture of me at Emerson with the message, “I think this is where you belong; let’s write the check!” And, well, as is obvious by where I’ll be headed this fall, we did.