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.