College Decision Day was on the horizon: May 1, 2017. I remember how all of my friends publicly announced where they would spend the next four years of their lives on Facebook and Instagram: Pleased to say I am #Swarthmore2021! I’m headed off to MIT, yo! Vanderbilt chose me, and now I chose them! But little did they know that as they celebrated off-screen, I was twisting my brain into knots trying to make my own decision.
I had narrowed my own options down to two: Rollins College and Emory University. Rollins was a small liberal arts college located in Winter Park, Florida (not 20 minutes away from my own home), with beautiful lake-view sunsets and a close-knit community I adored. After a fun and challenging competition, I had received a full scholarship from them that had left me with $6,000 left over! It was my #1 choice in state, and ever since junior year I had been expecting to go there, and go happily. And I was happy.
I had never expected to get into Emory. Located in the pulsing city of Atlanta, Georgia (only 20 minutes away from the CNN building and World of Coca-Cola), the University was ranked in the nation’s top 20, laden with opportunities one may not get anywhere else (like a Creative Writing program that allowed me to get a dual major in English and Creative Writing, with an option to minor in something else too! Thinking about it makes me drool...) It may not sound like much to an Engineering major, but for me, it was a chance to get ahead in the world.
It would cost $8,000 a year, though.
So, what to do? The options loomed over my head for days. I could go to Rollins, visit my parents every weekend, and be one of Rollins’ elite as a girl with a full ride, what they call an Alfond Scholar. The school wasn’t as well known outside of Florida, but it was the second-best school of the South, and I’d receive all this education and benefits for free!
But at Emory, I’d be a girl who goes to one of the nation’s best universities, studying exactly what I wanted to, with the chance to skyrocket into my career as soon as I got to the campus. I’d be away from home, and slightly in debt, but some opportunities were worth it...weren’t they?
I lost sleep over the decision. I asked everyone I knew what I should do, and yet, I always got the same response either way. I thought and I thought and I thought and I thought…
So, what did I choose?
I went for the opportunities of the unknown. I chose Emory.
In the end, the truly immense weight of a degree at Emory (as well as the program that was extremely specific to my tastes) pulled me in. Not only that, but location, location, location. Winter Park is beautiful, but Atlanta would better equip me with the resources required to become the world-class journalist I aspire to be. Besides, what would be better in the long run: being debt-free but unable to get a job because of where I came from, or being slightly in debt but enriched with experience and opportunity and a world-class education because of where I came from?
Deciding where to go to college isn’t always easy. But think hard about what you value in an education. And remember: sometimes the scariest adventure might just be the most rewarding.
High school seniors, where have you decided to go this fall? Let us know in the comments!