It’s hard to believe that I was still deciding where to attend college four years ago. The entire process gave me anxiety: even though several schools admitted me at Onsite. I was happy to receive the admission letters in October, but the financial aid packages were minimal.
I come from a one-parent household, so securing a robust financial aid package was paramount for me to attend college. Knowing that, I decided to apply for outside scholarships to help bridge the gap, but the scholarships weren’t renewable other than the one given to me by the Chicago Cubs. I didn’t have a favorite school throughout the process, because my dream schools were out of reach.
Knox College was a school that I applied to without knowing much about the institution. It didn’t have a journalism major, only a minor. For me, that was already a red flag, so I didn’t research the school further. They didn’t give me an admissions decision at Onsite and eventually rejected my application. I met with my Chicago Scholars counselor, Monique Moore, and she said I should apply again after I received my second-quarter grades. She told me about Knox’s academic reputation. She didn’t allow me to take the first response as the only response.
Around mid-January, I received an acceptance from the small liberal arts college in central Illinois. There wasn’t any jubilation or tears of joy, just indifference. I didn’t believe I was going to attend the school. I was so adamant about not going to Knox that I didn’t even visit. (Note to Scholars: that was a big mistake, don’t do what I did).
Fast forward to the last week of April when I decided to attend Columbia College Chicago. I visited the downtown campus, talked with alumni and professors, and fell in love with the program. I worried about not receiving the full college experience as a commuter, but commuting allowed me to save money.
On the Thursday before decision day, Knox’s financial aid award letter was delivered to my home. It was the best package I was offered, and it turned out that my best friend was also planning to attend.
If you’re a stellar student, I know you have your dream school in mind, but don’t close your mind to other schools. Do your research and weigh your options. What might look like your “dream school” might not be the great fit that you initially thought. Ms. Moore’s help was unquantifiable; I couldn’t have gone through the college process without her guidance in the college process. She helped me write letters and find realistic options. She always told me the truth, even if I didn’t want to hear it. Looking back, I wish I had taken advantage of those counseling sessions more. Ask questions, even if the outcome seems final. If your session is almost over, ask if you can schedule another time. Today, I’m a first-generation college graduate in large part due to the foundation set from my time as a Chicago Scholar and the resources available to me.