Growing up in a family from Ohio, I always dreamed I would attend the illustrious Ohio State University. Scarlet and gray were the colors of honor and it always seemed like the obvious path for me to one day don the Buckeye as my personal mascot. I imagined myself graduating from undergraduate and attending medical school there to achieve my ultimate dream of becoming a doctor. I dreamt up this life for myself having never visited OSU. I always just assumed I would love it as much as everyone else in my family did when they attended.
Fast forward to my sophomore year of high school. We were in Ohio visiting family when my father suggested that we take a trip down to Columbus to tour my future school. Ecstatic, I jumped at the chance to finally visit the college I had heard so much about from my family. With that, we drove about an hour and arrived at the place I believed my future lived.
I came to find out that my future did not, in fact, have OSU in it. It never had.
After joining up with our tour group, we proceeded to tour OSU's massive campus. With each passing building, I grew more and more unsure about how well I would fit in on a campus so large. The faculty I spoke to were cordial but distant. I was another number in a long procession of potential students. I didn't get the feeling that I as an individual was important in the larger scheme of things. I was simply another student to fill a dorm room. About 30 minutes into the tour, I leaned over to my dad and whispered, "Dad, I don't think this is the school for me." To my surprise, his reply was, "I don't think it is either."
From that day forward, I began my true college search, focusing more on where I could thrive as both a student and an individual rather than what the college's name meant to other people. I toured four schools in total and researched over a dozen. Finally, in the summer before my junior year, I applied to my top three: Purdue University, the University of Illinois-Main Campus and Indiana Wesleyan University. As I waited for decisions to arrive, I decided to tour Purdue once again. I had toured U of I earlier that year and had made a pretty firm impression from it. I wanted to see which of the two was truly my top choice. This tour was a special one though, as it allowed potential health and human science students to take special morning and afternoon classes pertaining to their major. I took a heart dissection course as well as an introduction to molecular biology course.
Within 10 minutes of my second day on campus, I knew Purdue University was my college. The College of Science faculty greeted me warmly and were truly interested in what I had to say as well as my future plans. Some even gave me their email so I could contact them with specific questions about their classes. I dissected a pig heart with complete strangers who I then ended up spending my entire day with because I liked them so much. I met my future biology professor who spent his presentation discussing genetics in animals and cracking jokes whenever the opportunity presented itself. I spoke to a member of the College of Science Board who remembered me from my previous visit and even called me out by name. All of the students I passed on my way to class said hello and asked me if they could help me find anything. Overall, I got the impression that Purdue did not just care about making academically successful students; they cared about creating well-rounded and balanced students.
Minute after minute I was shocked by how such a large public university could be so personable and welcoming. Those are the people I want to associate with in college. That is the type of person I want to be as an incoming freshman. That night I returned home, knowing for sure where my future lived, and that was in West Lafayette, Indiana.
In November, I got acceptance letters from all three of my top choices. As if to give me even more reason to choose Purdue, I was granted the Purdue Presidential Scholarship, paying for one-quarter of my total tuition. In March, I returned to campus for the sole purpose of walking into Hovde Hall and accepting my offer of admission in person. I walked in as a prospective student and walked out as an admitted one. This fall, I will be a student in the College of Science, studying biology with pre-medical advising as well as minors in Spanish and psychology. I chose a path different from the one I originally believed to be correct, but I could not be happier with my decision. Sometimes, you just know when you are supposed to be somewhere. I can say with full confidence that the only place I got that feeling of belonging and peace was at Purdue.
If you are in the process of trying to decide which college is right for you, please do not use the expectations of others to guide you. You are an individual and this journey is yours. The path you take should be one you take pride in. It is very difficult to be successful if you are not comfortable in your environment. Many schools can teach you well, but not every school is focused on making you a better person. Trust me. When you find "the one," you'll know. Your future is out there. Now it's time for you to go find it.