In the last edition of my college compendium, I walked you through my time in high school and how I prepared myself to submit applications to the 10 colleges I applied to. Now, I’ll be sharing with you how I arrived at my ultimate decision, and how my decision proves that it’s always best to enter the college application process with an open mind.
This decision was not an easy one. In fact, at first, University of Missouri (Mizzou), the school I ended up choosing, was my “super safety” (a college I was sure I’d get into and initially brushed off) and dead last on my list. I knew barely anything about Mizzou except that it supposedly had a great reputation for journalism, so I figured I’d apply given my desired career path.
From eighth grade and pretty much up until my junior year, I was dead set on attending Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. I lived and breathed purple, I asked for Wildcat gear for Christmas sophomore year, and I even put NU ‘25 in my Instagram bio. What really drew me to the school was its proximity to Chicago (I have family there and have always loved the city), its reputation for journalistic excellence, and the chances it afforded me to gain real foreign correspondence experience as an undergrad. Then, I went on a campus tour and completely fell out of love with the school due to what I felt was a dull and stuffy social environment. Underclassmen, and even seniors, visiting campus can be such a game changer. While the “harder” facts about a school are super important to consider, like whether or not they have a good program for your intended major and what kinds of internship opportunities there are, intangible and inexplicable things like “fit” and “feel” are important, too. Even if it’s not really for a reason you can put your finger on, if you step onto campus and can just feel you will be absolutely miserable there, that is probably not the right school for you. Virtual tours are great and are totally fine if that’s the only option you have, but admissions offices will often have their student tour guides put on a show for prospective students and only let students see the best their school has to offer. Actually travelling to campus will allow you to see if you fit into the broader community and will allow you to see firsthand what goes on there on a daily basis. I toured Northwestern on a dreary Friday afternoon where everyone seemed dead, lifeless, and miserable. It’s quite possible I just came on a bad day (so don’t let one experience totally color your perspective), but my tour guide also said he was burnt out of journalism and alluded to a heavy Greek life on campus (which is not for me). The campus visit in tandem with the lack of merit aid totally smudged my rose-colored view of Northwestern.
From late eleventh grade onward, it was all about UChicago. I fell in love with the gorgeous gothic campus, the insane intelligence of the student body, the reputation for rigor, the chance for intellectual exploration, the location, and so much more. I still really do have a soft spot for UChicago: in the end it came down to UChicago for public policy or Mizzou, and here’s why I chose Mizzou:
Mizzou stood out to me because of the triple whammy it offered me: the Honors College, the Walter Williams Journalism FIG, and the Stamps Scholars program. I was excited about the Honors College, pretty enthused about the WW FIG (I mean a cohort of like minded journalism majors at what I soon came to learn was one of the top five journalism schools in the country seems pretty awesome), and completely blown away by Stamps. In addition to a full ride, Stamps offers many chances of a lifetime in the way of study abroad and internship opportunities in places like Belgium and England for free, journalistic research opportunities in China, more mentors/advisers than I can count, access to deans, and a tight knit community amongst a school that is positively bursting with school spirit and a general air of friendliness; seriously—some of the nicest people in the US are in Columbia, Missouri. Everyone greets you with big, bright Midwestern smiles; restaurant staff spark personal conversations; and CoMo, as it is affectionately called, is such a wonderfully eclectic place filled with people like the owner of Pizza Tree who gives you a hearty, “Rock on!” no matter what you order there.
Compared to what I could get at Mizzou for free, choosing UChicago just wouldn’t end up being financially responsible for me, and as great as that school is, the opportunities I have been granted at Mizzou are bar none. Mizzou was like a gift that kept giving; the more I learned about the school, the more I grew to love it and really be excited about where my time at Mizzou could take me.
I will admit that, given my acceptances to some big name private universities, I was snobbish and hesitant to go all in for Mizzou at first. I feel like around this area, students have this awful pressure cooker-induced idea that we must go to a “name brand” school or else we’ll be a failure, but that is simply not true. Mizzou is a state school and is giving me more opportunities than any of the other schools I applied to ever could, and for free, too.
This goes to show you that life works in mysterious ways. Sometimes the least likely outcome is the one that actually occurs—so don’t let unfounded bias close doors for you; keep an open mind.
The right school will present itself to you; I guarantee it! It just may not be the school you initially imagined. Good luck, Bengals! And go Tigers!