Knowing you chose the right school

By Abby Paeth, Editor-in-chief

Growing up, I never had a specific college that I wanted to go to in mind. My mom graduated from Loyola in Chicago and my dad graduated from Southern Illinois. Both of them enjoyed their time at their respective schools, but they never pushed their college experiences onto me. So when my junior year of high school rolled around, I was starting from scratch.

I’ve always kind of been a homebody. When I first started applying to colleges, I applied only to universities that were in a close proximity to my hometown so that in a moment’s notice, I could leave if I needed to.

When I chose Illinois, I think it definitely came as a shock to a lot of people because, being a two-and-a-half hour drive, it was farther than most schools I applied to.

For so long, I had convinced myself — without telling anyone else — that I was going to Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It wasn’t until a few days before Decision Day, that I woke up and for some reason, I felt like choosing Marquette was wrong. I felt like I should be going to Illinois.

So, I did something that I never do. I am the type of person who needs a minute to breathe and to think — I need to weigh all the pros and cons of any decision I make, and choosing a college was probably my biggest life decision thus far.

That day, I didn’t think; I just did it. I committed to Illinois. For some reason, it just felt like the right decision. For me, there was no big “a-ha” moment like most people describe. I didn’t initially visit UI and think, “This is the school for me” or, “I never want to leave this place.” Those moments didn’t come until much later.

For the days leading up to move-in day, I wondered if I made the right choice. I was so impulsive when I committed, it made me wonder if Marquette really was where I was supposed to be. When move-in day finally arrived, I was nervous, to say the least. I didn’t know how I would handle being so far away from my family and friends.

It took a day or two before I realized everything I was feeling within those first few days was completely normal. Everyone else was in the same situation — they all just left home for the first time, some were a few miles away and some were thousands. Some students have known their entire lives Illinois was the school for them and some were still unsure. Whichever category you fall into, you aren’t the only one.

Once I started going to class, making friends and joining different clubs, I began to notice how much fun I was having and how much the University started to feel like a home.

For some of us, it takes a while to adjust and for some us, it just comes naturally. The important thing to remember is you need to give it time. There are so many opportunities at this school, it’s impossible to find your niche within the first week.

During my first few months at the University, I made a ton of new friends and even built stronger relationships with people I already knew coming into college. I started to create a role for myself at The Daily Illini and I started to notice that the work I was doing in class was valued and important.

For me, I didn’t know I chose the right school based off of all the things I saw during college visits and tours or at some other university-sponsored recruiting event.

I knew I chose the right school when I felt like I became a contributing factor to what makes this school amazing.

You’re not just another student, but a valued and utilized component in a much large picture. You know you chose the right school when you start to feel pride for the University’s successes, such as winning football games or national academic recognition. You know you chose the right school when you go home and you cannot wait to tell your friends and families all about your time here.

Lastly, you know you chose the right school when you look back on your college life and think about all of the opportunities you would never have had, all the people you would never have met and all the things you would never have accomplished if you chose someplace else.

Abby is a senior in Media.

[email protected]