Myth #1: Everyone, on any given college campus, knew their specific college was the right place for them as early as the day they applied.
Myth #2: When you walk onto the college campus that is right for you, “You’ll just know, you’ll get that feeling.”
Call the Discovery Channel and get me a spot on MythBusters because that’s what I’m about to do, bust these myths. I am a freshman at Rochester and I neither applied to Rochester with any serious intentions of attending, nor knew immediately that it was the place for me upon setting foot on campus.
Let’s go all the way back to December 30, 2009. I’m sitting in my room, staring at my computer and the lovely green triangles that have just appeared next to all 17 of my completed and submitted applications on the Common App. Let me tell you, you will never appreciate a green triangle this much for the rest of your life. But I was early in my submissions, and I had some time to spare until the infamous deadline of December 31, 2009 at 11:59 pm. I could hear the voices of two of my closest friends resonating in my head, singing praises for the University of Rochester, to which they were also applying, and to which I had not applied. I knew nothing of the school, other than its geographic location. Somewhere in the back of my mind I remembered it as the school who, the previous summer, had sent me a viewbook in an envelope that said. “DO NOT: Eat this book, Wear this book, Taunt this book, Put out fires with this book, Fight Bears with this book, Use this book as a parachute, Use this book to ward off vampires, Use this book as a support. MAYBE: Draw a moustache on this book. DO: Read this book.” Indication number one of the laid back attitude that pervades the school. Right there, a few hours before the deadline, I added one more school to my list and applied to Rochester. Why not? I was in the essay-writing zone, so to speak, and there didn’t seem to be anything inherently bad about the school.
Now fast forward a few weeks, and I’m heading to an ice cream store on Newbury St. in downtown Boston for my alumni interview for Rochester, still fairly apathetic about my feelings toward the school. It still seems all right, but I’m not dying to get in. Retrospectively, I’m sure that my interview was the decisive moment that tipped the scale for Rochester. It didn’t push the school to my first choice, but it moved my view from apathetic to decisively positive. My interviewer expounded on all of her positive memories from the school, and explained to me how the attitude of the students, faculty, and administrators at Rochester is unique in that it is one of the few schools that lets you creatively combine all of your academic and extracurricular passions into one perfectly tailored four-year-long experience, no matter how disparate your interests are. That describes me in a nutshell: entirely incapable of picking just one direction for my life. For me, this interview was almost backward from what it was supposed to be. It was more like I was interviewing the school than that the school was interviewing me. I left that ice cream store feeling like I knew the school now, and went home eagerly hoping for an acceptance.
Fast forward just a few more months, and I’m tearing open the envelope to my Rochester acceptance. This envelope does not have any goofy instructions about what I should or should not do with the contents, but the letter inside is rife with personal touches that allude to the same caring nature of the school as that silly envelope from last summer.
My high school never had any Rochester representatives come and speak, and I obviously didn’t visit Rochester prior to applying, so, when trying to decide whether or not to attend, I thought the only way to figure that out would be to attend Spring Open Campus at Rochester, a series of days in April geared toward accepted students. Many people had told me that I’d “just have a feeling” when I walked onto the campus of the right school for me. THOSE PEOPLE WERE WRONG. When I walked onto the River Campus for the first time, I felt water falling on my face and that was it. It was a rainy, glum day, and the opening speech did nothing but put me to sleep. I was unimpressed and a little disappointed. But I spent the day talking to actual students here, going on tours, visiting places like the Campus Times office, and ultimately spending the night in a Gilbert dorm. The sun was shining by the end of the visit, metaphorically and literally, as I felt for myself what my interviewer had been talking about. Rochester students are passionate about their interests, but not cutthroat. I wish the school would change their motto from “Meliora” to “We’re a laid back group of smarties,” but I guess it just doesn’t roll off the tongue as well.
Ultimately, I am going to Rochester because it’s the right school for me, you should never go to a college that isn’t. But I didn’t figure this out the way everyone told me I would. I applied without any serious intentions, my off-campus interview was the first thing that caused me to seriously consider the school, and I only felt “that feeling” after an entire 24 hour period of being on the campus. Until you have an opportunity to see the school for yourself, use the resources that are presented to you as much as possible, such as high school visits, alumni interviews, or students you may know who are currently enrolled—these are the best ways possible to start to get a feel for the school, even if you are apathetic at the moment like I was.