Hello, and welcome to my first “personal story”. I was contemplating what I truly wanted to do for this segment; whether I wanted to connect with college students, other black girls, or just young adults all together. I finally decided that I will do all of the above. Some stories will relate to some people more than others, and that’s okay. I am excited to just talk (or type) about my life and share my stories with you.
My first personal story is going to be about why I picked The Ohio State University, and my whole college decision experience. There are many factors that made me pick OSU, and if I could do it all over, I would not change a thing.
Since I was a little girl, I dreamed of going to college. When I started kindergarten, my brother was starting his senior year of high school, so the conversation about going to college has always been discussed my house. We would go on college tours with my brother, attended his college orientation, and helped him move into his dorm. I knew I wanted to have this experience as well, to leave the house and be an adult on my own. Years later, it was finally my turn to pick a school. Here are a few points I made when deciding where to go to school.
My first deciding factor was the size of the school. Many of my high school teachers encouraged smaller universities because they believed we would get to know more of our peers and build stronger relationships with professors. Many teachers told me that a smaller school was the only way to build personal relationships with faculty, and that this was something everyone needed. However, I was not a fan of knowing everyone (nor everyone knowing me) at the school I chose. I didn’t want to have a second high school experience– I enjoyed the idea of having a lot of people at my school, and not knowing every single one of them. I knew I wanted to go to a large school, and here’s why.
Network and Connections
I knew that a larger institution meant more opportunities for networking and building connections that would benefit me in the future. No matter where I am in the country, when I mention that I am a Buckeye, I always meet another after exchanging an “O-H”! I knew I wanted to connect with some of the best professors in the world, because this could help with future opportunities. You can build personal connections with professors in a class of 100+, you just gotta want it. If you don’t sit in the front row of class and choose to hide instead, if you don’t attend office hours to ask questions or just to talk, if you don’t send emails or stay after class, you won’t build those connections. Yes, at a smaller institution it is easier to connect with professors and faculty with a smaller class size, but at Ohio State, I had a lot of classes that are quite small. Office hours allowed me to talk with professors and hear about their life stories and events going on in their lives; a bond you would expect to gain only from attending a smaller school. I knew that I would get the network and connections I was looking for at a large institution.
Meeting Someone New Everyday
Along with the connections I wanted to make, I also wanted to meet new people from all over. I would get a better chance at interacting with various cultures and background at a larger school than I would at a small one. There are so many international students from literally all over that I got to meet and become friends with. Also, every class is different, and I hardly ever have the same classmates, which allows me to meet new people every semester. At a smaller school, most people who share majors are in the same classes all four years, but at a larger school, you get to connect with people inside and outside your major in every class. I wanted to make as many valuable relationships as possible, because your network is your net worth, and I got to experience this at a bigger institution. Also, joining different organizations and clubs allowed me to meet even more people, and find my purpose on such a large campus. When you find your group of people, the large campus starts to feel small, and you feel more connected than you thought you could.
Finally, I knew I wanted a school with a lot of school spirit. Not that smaller schools lack spirit, but I just wanted an excessive amount. There are so many clubs and sporting events around campus that just make you feel at home. Choosing a large school meant there is always something for you and people meant for you. The pride of being a buckeye and the spirit the school has was something that I always wanted in my dream school. Also, there was no way I could go to a school that didn’t have a good football team (I am a huge football fanatic). But, don’t let the playoff game be the determining factor, pick a school with overall spirit and pride in their traditions.
Out-of-State Vs. In- State
Since my brother started college, I have been set on going to school out-of-state. I’m not sure why (since my brother was in-state about an hour away), but I always knew I wanted to leave Maryland for school. If you’re torn between an in-state school vs. an out-of-state school, definitely look into scholarships your school and your state government can give you, along with external scholarships.
Go Where The Money Is…Or Do You?
Everyone says go where they give you the most money, and ideally, you should listen. If you’re going to have student debt, get it during graduate school, no undergrad. A bachelors degree is a bachelors degree, no matter where you go. However, this is something I did not do. The Ohio State University has been my dream school, and a school I was set on going to. It is out-of-state and cheerleading doesn’t give a lot of scholarship money, but I did not want to go somewhere else and think about the “what ifs” the rest of my life. So, I applied to every scholarship the school offered, the state of Maryland offered, my high school gave out, external scholarships from grocery stores and food chains, literally everywhere. I knew this was where I wanted to be, so I did what I had to do to be able to attend OSU.
Aside from money (which obviously wasn’t a reason I picked a school), I wanted to go out-of-state because I wanted to experience a new culture and atmosphere. I have lived on the east coast my whole life, Maryland, D.C, and New Jersey being home for me. Great crab, four seasons, similar lingo, everything I was used to. But, I knew I wanted to go somewhere I could experience something new. In Maryland, I have been surround by a diverse group of peers and educators, but I know there are places in the country that aren’t as diverse. Although Ohio State brags about their diversity on the campus tours and in their brochures, I saw that it was lacking what I was use to but was diverse in its own way, a new way. Going to the midwest was a huge culture shock, but it’s what I needed. I needed to learn how other people grew up, learn different perspectives, try different food and music. I needed to leave my comfort zone. I wanted to go to a school that would have various cultures and backgrounds, something new that I hopefully I didn’t see growing up. I figured, staying on the east coast, I would see a lot of similar cultures I am used to and people that are similar to me. Never did I ever think I would get called out for calling it “soda” and not “pop”. Along with differences, Ohio is a swing state, which was something I was very nervous about at first. However, what would staying in a democratic state do for me? I would continue thinking my opinion is the only true way, which wouldn’t benefit me later in life. Attending a swing state showed me that people see the world and our government differently. It challenged me, but also allowed me to show people how I grew up, and I got to learn about why they think differently based on how they grew up– all while maintaining my morals and respecting others.
I also knew I wanted to go out of state because it would force me to be more independent. I wanted to grow up and learn how to be responsible; force myself to eat healthy, workout on my own, wake up on time for class and build discipline. Getting away from home would force me to focus more and better myself because I knew my parents weren’t around watching over me and reminding me of deadlines and appointments. This really helps prepare me for the real world, and take responsibility for my actions.
How Far Is Too Far?
Finally, after I chose to be out-of-state, distance kinda started to come into play. I didn’t want to be too far, where my parents wouldn’t be able to come in case of an emergency, but I didn’t want to be close enough for them to come visit me every weekend. After driving to schools like Clemson and University of Massachusetts, I realized that a 10+ drive was too far for me, and to look closer. Ohio is a great distance cause it forces the responsibility and independence I wanted to develop, yet still allows me to feel like I’m not too far from home and could have a weekend with my family if need be.
The Final 3
Once I got to my top three schools, I had to make a decision. What was going to be my home for the next four years, and where was I going to start a new chapter of my life?
This decision was probably the hardest of them all. I was torn because I wasn’t sure where I would fit in the best. At an HBCU, would I be “black enough”? At a PWI, was I going to the only black girl that was a “digestible black” for the whites? It was definitely hard to think about not finding the school for me. Howard University was my second option, and would have been the first, however, HBCU’s don’t have the funds to give as much scholarship money as PWI’s. I would have been taking out loans no matter where I went, but why not go for the school I always wanted to attend. There are days I do wish I picked Howard, but I thought I needed the PWI experience. I have grown up with so many different cultures, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to go far and meet some more. Howard is in D.C, which I am also familiar with, so I would feel like I never left home to go to school. However, I do hope to get the HBCU experience for law school, and want to attend Howard School Of Law in 2023.
The big question every adult asked me when I was deciding a school was, “What felt like home?” I definitely recommend touring as many schools as you can. Along with my brother and sister, I have toured about 10 different school. Some I had stronger interest than others, but you never know if you don’t go. I knew I didn’t want to go to the University of Maryland, and the tour made that decision definite. It was too close to home for me and too many people from my district for my liking. I saw people I grew up with, classmates, neighbors, church folk… literally everyone at UMD. Also, I didn’t get a good feeling when touring, and that’s okay. Not every school is meant for everyone. When I visited Clemson, it was on my top 3 list. But after driving nearly 12 hours and touring the campus, I didn’t feel the same. To be honest, I can’t really pin point why I didn’t like Clemson. I’m not sure if it was the long drive or the town surrounding the campus, but I just knew it wasn’t for me. Don’t ignore those signs if you feel them. I knew if I ended up there, I would be miserable and upset. Then I toured Ohio State.. and this was when I knew. It was huge, right in the city, had a million libraries and places to study. Everyone was outside having fun playing volleyball or spike ball, having picnics on the oval, riding scooters with their friends, having fun! I was drawn to… everything. I knew this was going to be the right fit and I could picture myself on the campus being a student. This was the “home feel” I was looking for.
I just knew I didn’t want to dream about the “what ifs”. I wanted to go to where I was meant to be. I did everything to be able to attend and to make it a reality. I worked hard in school and got involved to be the perfect candidate for the school. Then I applied for all types of grants and scholarships. I knew if I didn’t attend the school, I would regret my college experience.
Reasons That Should NOT Be A Factor In Your Decision
Now, there are a lot of factors that went in to pick the perfect school. There are many schools you won’t be able to look at or even know exists. But, there are many factors you should not make your determining factor– or a factor at all in some cases.
Do NOT ever pick a school because you want to party. Literally, every school is a party school, every school will have parties, no matter how big or small the school, college students will party. Plus, you are not going to school to party, you are there to further your education and career. If all you want to do it party, you should 1). grow up and mature first, and 2). not be interested in college. It’s a lot of money just to go party. Plus if you get in trouble with the law, you’re kicked out of school and it will be on your record, making it hard to go anywhere else.
Sports are great, but whether you’re playing or watching, it should not be the only reason to attend. If you go to a school because they have a good football or basketball team that you can attend games, don’t. The team can easily have a downfall, change in coaches, players transfer, literally anything. LSU won the 2020 national championship, drafts over 30 players to the NFL, and had a terrible 2021 season. If you pick based on how well a team does, it can easily back fire. If you are an athlete, you should pick based on the culture of the team, the resources, and opportunities you will have to better yourself. If you pick a school because they win, again, they can easily start losing, coaches change, or the team has budget cuts. Be smart, but don’t let this be your determining factor.
Major Programs The BEST In The Country
Again, it is undergraduate. An undergrad politic major at Yale vs undergrad at Howard is the same degree. The prestige of the school can only help you so far for undergrads. Yes, Yale is great with resources and networking, but aim to do good, no matter the school in undergrad so you can go father in graduate school. Also, 75% of college students change their major, so if you pick a school solely on their major program and then end up switching (or wanting to switch), it will be hard to still like the school. It’s okay to explore and see what you truly want to do, so don’t let this be your only deciding factor. Take it in account, but it’s never that deep. You’ll learn the same material needed at any university.
Follow Your Significant Other
Out of high school, you change a lot from who you are and what you want. You mature and grow up, and sometimes, mature out of relationships. You can grow out of friendships just as easy as a romantic relationship. Choosing a school based on where someone else is going is not something you should consider when picking your school. I remember applying to schools my boyfriend was thinking about attending, just so I could be closer to him. After touring those schools I realized we had different interest and desires in school selections. He was looking for a smaller school closer to home, which– previous stated– is the total opposite of what I wanted. If I were to attend the school that he decided on, I would have been upset with my selection, especially if we ended up not working out. Life happens and relationships can end, and then you will be stuck at a college you didn’t like with a person you are no longer with.
To Get As Far As Possible
I know many people say they want to get as far away from home as possible. I thought I wanted to get far away at first when I was looking at the University of Oregon. But I realized, being too far was not the best idea for me. I wouldn’t be able to spend every holiday at home, or get my parents to come to my games as often. I also thought I was excited to go away from home, but turns out, I was not ready at all and got very home sick! Everyone is different, but just be careful and don’t make your ultimate goal to get away from your home.
Choosing Ohio State was a stressful process, but I am glad I made this decision. I made great life long friends and mentors that I know will be there forever. This was something I always dreamed about, and I hope this helped with any high school seniors picking their school.
This also concludes my first person story. Although not too personal, I hope you enjoyed and was able to connect with me a little more. Stay tuned for next months personal story. Be sure to let me know anything you would want to hear about.