As a student who has some college experience already under my belt, looking back on the process of choosing a college yields mixed feelings. I miss the traveling with my mom to see new cities and try new foods, hearing tales of school spirit and campus traditions, and, of course, scoping out the education opportunities. I miss the hope and excitement rattling around in my head as I finished senior year of high school, unsure of what was to come, but ready for change.
But let’s not forget the unforgettable pre-college breakdown. The financial arguments behind closed doors between parents, hashing out what exactly would have to be sacrificed. Calculating the mileage of each campus from my family, my dog, and my comfort zone. Reminding my best friends at my graduation party that no matter how far, I’ll always be one call away when the rough nights come knocking, and that I’ll still be up at three in the morning studying anyways, so they might as well call.
Dealing with this kind of upheaval in my life at eighteen years old didn’t leave room for fully enjoying things during my senior year: my last time standing on the field at the homecoming football game, my last time rushing home from a friend’s house to make curfew, or my last time feeling comfortable in my bed at home. I was always worried about what came next, like the pressing issue of which college to attend.
I was vacillating between ten schools that offered diverse programs, appealing campuses, and little tidbits that made each place special. At University of Delaware, they had handmade ice cream; at Elizabethtown, a tiny, close-knit campus; at Scranton, memories of my mother’s best friend we lost to breast cancer. University of Pittsburgh sang “Sweet Caroline” at every baseball game. Gettysburg had history, charm, and community. Virginia Commonwealth University had an unbeatable basketball team with a sixth man to match. Each place had its pull. Each place had its push, though.
Except one place.
In the spreadsheets I made, the brochures I read, the student-lead tours of the schools and the social scenes, the sporting events I attended, and of course, the food I ate, each university held an element of discomfort for me. Pitt and VCU were too spread out in the city, I’d get lost. University of Delaware was like cheating myself – if I went there, I was living on my own with the caveat that I was so close to home I could very possibly bump into my mother at Walmart. The one place that pulled ahead of every other was the lovely evergreen campus with relatively few actual evergreen trees. The place where the rowdiness on campus only happens at sports games, and people strap up a hammock when it’s nice out. The place where it’s okay to voice our concerns, and to learn how to make the world a better place by listening to each other.
That place, the perfect fit for me, is Loyola University Maryland.
This place makes it okay to be alone, especially as I venture out into the cold, hard real world. It’s not too bad when you have a Californian with a personality as warm as her state as your roommate. This place makes it okay to be an outspoken woman with a brain and an opinion. We care about our whole selves, so much so that “cura personalis” is our slogan. In this place, community isn’t just an ideal; community, inclusion, and love are plastered on the walls and congregated on the quad. This place makes kind the new cool, makes strangers into confidantes, and makes you never want to live without an all-you-can-eat dining hall ever again.
In High School, I felt everyone had their first-pick chosen before I did, but I’m happy I waited it out to pick the right place for me. My mother, father, and their friends offered connections, recommendation letters, and words of advice on where to go, and my wonderful guidance counselors let my friends and I come in for session after session of complaints, questions, and breakdowns. They eventually steered me in the right direction.
Quite frankly, college is where you learn to put on your big-girl-pants. Where we come in contact with our world in a practical sense. I’m so thankful I have a supportive campus, wonderful friends and a horizon full of opportunities. Though the stress of applying, awaiting acceptances, choosing a college, and figuring out financials is crippling, eventually it pays to do the hard work if it means a genuinely happy four years. I was incredibly lucky throughout the whole ordeal, and I could not be more grateful that the stars aligned, the fairy dust worked its magic, and I can enjoy these next four years as a proud Loyola greyhound!
Caroline Hermance is a current Sophomore at Loyola University Maryland working as the Creative Assistant to the Messina First Year Living-Learning Program. She is a Biology and Psychology Interdisciplinary Major and a Communications Minor with a focus in Digital Media. She is also a member of Student Government Association’s Executive Board as the Creative Director.