All students have a unique story that tells how they arrived at their chosen college or university. They could have chosen it for something as simple as closeness to home or affordability. Maybe they had a relative who went there that made it sound really fun and appealing. Or maybe after a long and tiring search for the perfect college, it appeared to them shining and bright and said, “I have everything you’re looking for!” My journey to becoming a Railsplitter was a brilliant combination of all these things. When it came down down to it, LMU was the only clear choice for me, and I couldn’t have imagined getting my education anywhere else.
That’s why it’s so funny that LMU wasn’t even my first choice for college. You see, I grew up and still live in a small town ten minutes away from the main campus. I’d been to the Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum enough times and sung the national anthem at so many basketball games in Tex Turner Arena that I felt like I already knew all there was to know. And I had no intentions of ever going there. I mean, being close to home was high on my list of priorities, but I was hoping to get at least a little further away!
I actually always thought I wanted to go to a large university. My mom had graduated from the University of Tennessee and she always talked about what a great time she had there. It wasn’t until I actually set foot on a big college campus and started walking around that I realized just how big it was. A small, quiet person like me would have a hard time trying not to get lost in the shuffle. Dodging city traffic and sitting in an enormous lecture hall with hundreds of other people was not for me. I needed a smaller campus and class sizes that would allow me to get personal attention from my professors, so I started researching some smaller colleges.
Among the schools I eventually applied to was LMU, but this was mostly to humor my grandfather. He had been a Railsplitter himself back in the 50s, and he insisted that I would really love it if I would get to know more about it. But I still did not fully commit to the idea until I got my acceptance letter. Not only did they want me to join them on campus, but they were awarding me FULL TUITION for it because of my good grades and ACT score. None of the other schools I applied to gave me an offer like that. It was going to be really hard to turn that down, especially since I had decided on pharmacy school and was going to incur even more student debt later. So I decided to give LMU some serious thought for once and learn everything I could about it.
What finally sealed the deal for me to attend LMU was Preview Day, an entire day devoted to learning more about what the University had to offer. During the information session about residence life, I found out that I would be eligible for Honors housing in the apartment residence halls. When Financial Aid gave a presentation on ways to pay for my education, I found out I would receive another scholarship because my grandfather was an alum. Later I was treated to a delicious lunch in the student center dining hall, which I had never seen before. Lunch in high school was pretty routine and limited, but here I could eat whatever I wanted and go back for as many plates as I could possibly eat! There was such a wide variety of delicious foods, too, from a have-it-your-way sandwich bar to an international station that served dishes I had never heard of before.
My most favorite part of the day, though, was the academic showcase. All of the different academic departments within the University had set up tables in Tex Turner Arena, and Preview Day attendants could walk up to each one to learn about the different classes the major required and which clubs were the best ones to join to enhance the learning experience. At the chemistry department’s table, I met one of the faculty members who showed me the outlined four-year plan for a chemistry degree. And at the music table, I was encouraged to join the University Concert Choir, which led to yet another scholarship opportunity! I left Preview Day feeling absolutely certain that this was where I needed to be.
It’s been almost three years since that fateful day and I still love every second of my time here. I’ve joined so many student organizations and have become very involved on campus. I’ve also made sure to keep up my good grades and have been named to the Dean’s List every semester so far. Sadly, my beloved grandfather passed away a few months before I graduated from high school. Even though he’s not here to see how much fun I’m having, I can smile because I at least got to see the excitement on his face when I told him I would be following in his footsteps. I keep a picture of him in my room here to remind myself to carry on his legacy proudly.
My advice to any high school student thinking about college is to not be quick to judge a school. Even if you’ve been there countless times or know several people who already go there, I’m sure there’s a whole lot more about it that you don’t know about yet. If I had never applied to LMU at all, I would have never known about all the great opportunities that awaited me. I’ve certainly found my dream school here, and I hope you do all you possibly can to find yours, too!