Deciding which college to choose was one of the most difficult decisions of my life. I had decided I wanted to study architecture, but I really didn't have much perspective beyond that. Luckily, I suppose, Indiana has only two schools that offer an architecture major: Ball State and Notre Dame. Since Notre Dame is known for being highly competitive, I decided to look beyond Indiana for architecture schools, which lead me to applying to the University of Cincinnati also.
Looking back on the three schools I looked at and applied for when I was a senior in high school, I wish I would have looked further abroad, both in the United States and around the world. To be honest, I would have likely still come to Ball State (for reasons I'll explain), but I still wonder what might have happened had I realized sooner that I could have gone anywhere in the world.
I was accepted into Ball State and U.C., but not Notre Dame. I'll admit I was disappointed. But, even if I had been accepted into ND, there's absolutely no conceivable way I could have afforded a private education.
So I had to decide between Ball State and UC. UC is located in an exciting, urban environment, has a great design school, I could live in comfortable dorms, and had offered me (initially) more scholarship money than Ball State had. Ball State was a smaller school, which meant I would have a more personalized education, had offered me some scholarship money, had a great design school, and it seemed Ball State had more friendly faculty and students than at UC (something I observed while visiting the two schools. . . Sorry UC!). The decision was difficult-- the two schools were comparable to each other in many ways with the big differences being cost. While UC offered me more money, Ball State was less-expensive overall. At that time, I didn't really have the university preferences regarding class size and school size that I have now.
I decided to go to UC. I sent my acceptance letter to Cincinnati and mailed off my refusal to Ball State. That was that, though I was still very uneasy about paying for out-of-state tuition. I would need a campus job, and I wouldn't be able to afford many of the things I wanted to do in college (like studying abroad). Such was life.
Then the unthinkable happened. The Honors College at Ball State offered me a full ride. The way Honors scholarships work at Ball State is that if a scholarship is turned down, it goes to the runner-up. Someone had turned down a scholarship, and I ended up being the runner-up. So I was in a predicament. Suddenly Ball State was no longer just about equal with UC to me. I had the opportunity to go to college for free, which is something very special.
I know many young people think that money should be secondary when choosing a college, but for me it was a primary consideration, especially since the two schools I compared were pretty similar. With a full-ride, I could work only in the summer, spending the school year focused on my academics. I could then spend the money I had earned in the summer on things I enjoyed, rather than on tuition. That meant I could study abroad, which was and is very important to me (if you hadn't already figured that out).
The more I thought about it, the more Ball State made sense. After some serious thinking and some frantic conversations with my parents, I decided to change my university to Ball State.
And it was the best decision of my life.