16 October 2009

Why I Chirp (Part I)

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.  

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