It goes without saying that when writing a blog about my senior year of high school, my mom and I have to write about college, too.
By default, it's kind of an important part of my life. Making the decision of where I want to go to college honestly feels like the biggest decision of my life – regardless of how many times people tell me I can change my mind if where I choose doesn't work out.
The pressure to choose the "right" place is immense and unending and feels like I'm falling into a black hole.
So, we began looking early.
In my junior year, we toured the U of M Twin Cities, which then was my number one choice. It's undeniable that this campus is beautiful. And large. And for a girl whose graduating class is 90 people, it's overwhelming. Despite the fact that they have a Quidditch team and I have family members who live in the cities, it didn't feel right there.
I didn't think I could truly feel at home on a college campus so large it has its own zip code.
That was the only tour we did my junior year. After that, I began getting an unending amount of mail from colleges. Pamphlets that all end up looking the same and boast a million and two reasons why that college should be the college.
I figured out fairly quickly that I had to narrow down my list, tour, and see how each college felt.
Last summer, we toured St. Olaf's in Northfield, Minnesota. The campus was beautiful. Trees and old buildings and an excellent tour guide who told me exactly what I wanted to hear. I knew this was what it felt to feel at home on a campus. I loved it, and I felt as though that was going to be the college for me. I liked it enough that I wanted to do an overnight stay to get an even better feel for the campus. This would also allow me to sit in on classes and be on campus while students were – to truly understand what it would be like to be a part of that world.
Before my overnight visit, my mom and I took part of the day to explore Northfield. What we found was the most perfect town hiding bookstores, quotes impressed onto sidewalks, and alleyways lined with lights. It was a storybook city down to the friendly people passing us on the streets. The rest of my visit was great, as well.
The college felt right.
Later, I toured Concordia. Partly, because I felt obligated, but partly, because I wanted to keep the college open as a back-up plan.
There's no denying that Concordia is beautiful and full of opportunities. Not only that, but they have speech – something that I would rather not have to let go of after April.
I've told both my mom and my dad that I would go to Concordia if it was anywhere farther away from Fargo.
I want to go to college somewhere I get lost for a while trying to find a grocery store. Far enough away that my parents can't come for lunch.
I want something new.
And it's hard to try and weigh the pros and cons. It makes everything more overwhelming.
But when I went to Creighton for interviews for their special programs, I felt like I knew.
Similar to St. Olaf's, my mom and I explored Omaha before I saw the campus. We ate at Old Market, walked through shops, and took in the men's basketball game that night. And it was incredible. An artsy downtown full of people who were friendly and kind and colorful.
When I got onto campus the next morning, my heart swelled. I understood why Creighton bragged about being the best. It's because they are. The buildings and the serenity of the campus and the pure sense of safety and home that I felt communicated to me that this place could be the one.
When we walked into the opening general session, my mom spotted Noelle, a girl I'd been talking to for the past couple weeks and potentially wanted to room with. When we saw each other, we ran into a hug and it felt like I was holding a best friend I'd been separated from for 18 years. This girl is my friend soulmate. I've never clicked faster and more easily with someone.
About a week after we met at Creighton she told me, "I've been praying a lot about where I should go to school and I feel like you are just my sign ya know? It's like, 'Here you go Noelle, here is your college best friend.'"
I realized there's no better way to describe it.
She's my person.
I knew the moment we met and in the brief time we got to spend together on campus. If there wasn't a distance of 12 hours between us, I would be by her side in a heartbeat. She's just one of the reasons Creighton feels so right, and I love her for it.
As I looked at Creighton, I felt a smile grow on my face every time I saw something new. Sitting in on classes, I was amazed at the professors, but also at myself. I knew I was on this level and that this challenging education is what I wanted. I love to learn and to make myself think.
Even now, writing this post, my eyes gleam at the excitement that my memory of Creighton holds.
There isn't a way to describe the feeling you get at the right college other than at home. Creighton felt secure, safe, and like it was made for me. A perfect distance from home, great programs for my career path, and so many opportunities.
When I found out I made it into the Honors Program and so did Noelle, I was beyond ready to commit. I want to be a Blue Jay.
For now, I still haven't officially committed to any one college, but I know that I have great choices in my back pocket. No matter where I end up going, I want to be happy and working hard.
Currently, I plan on double-majoring in Political Science and Psychology with a possible minor in Women's Studies. After my undergrad, I plan on attending law school with a concentration in civil and women's rights. I want to grow up to be a strong, highly educated woman. One that people, my family and friends, are proud to know. One that has the ability to change the lives of the people she works with.
As the statue at Creighton University says, I want to "Go Set the World on Fire."
The decision of which college to choose has proved a difficult one. There are so many choices and they can be difficult to differentiate. Other times, the differentiating factors each only exist at one of the choices Abby is considering, which means no matter what, she is giving something up.
But that is life.
We’ve toured a handful of campuses. All of them very different. We started with the big guns.
The University of Minnesota-Twin Cities
I was super excited about this visit. It is such an excellent school, with opportunities in every realm you can imagine. It is downtown, so close to the part of Minneapolis that we have spent so much time in for writing classes, the quirky end of Washington near the Guthrie, Gold Medal Park, and the walking bridge. Those locations make up the back drop of what is probably my favorite memories with my girls. If Abby continued her story with that back drop, I felt like the good juju would protect and keep her.
I also loved that her stepdad went there and sharing their alma mater would be a great connection for them.
But a bit of (maybe not) startling information about the U of M….it’s big.
Like so big.
It is as big as the TOWN that Abby grew up in. If I’m not mistaken, we were told it has its own zip code. This isn’t all bad. But it is, if nothing else, intimidating as hell. If not for Abby, for me.
Nevertheless, Abby does love the location: close enough to home—far enough from home, great network of supportive family and friends nearby, the city backdrop, The Loft Literary Center, Button Poetry…the list goes on. She loves knowing that she’d be challenged and be able to grow. But it didn’t quite feel like home should.
Almost a year passed before our next visit.
St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN
Can I just say here—holy crap. Am I allowed to say that in discussing a Lutheran school? I mean, I did say “holy” crap.
But wow. I freaking LOVED this place. Northfield is about 40 minutes south of the cities, so a lot of the location benefits from above apply. Another benefit is the aesthetics. While not a deciding factor, this is the most pristine campus I have ever been on. Every building, every square inch of campus, was so meticulously cared for, I couldn’t help but believe my precious cargo would be meticulously cared for as well.
And the town! Oh my stars.
Northfield is the town you would expect to see if Lifetime made a Christmas movie based in a small Minnesota town. It is precious.
And they make Malt-O-Meal there, you guys! MALT.O.MEAL!!!
It is amazing to note how much of your experience in visiting a college is intangible, affective elements. You look for the right program, reputation, and financial aid package to check off the boxes, but you color in your world with that knowing that comes from synapses popping like fireworks in your left, prefrontal cortex.
I don’t know if that even makes sense, but it sounds so science-y. And we ARE talking about college.
I personally believe that feeling of knowing is God’s way of saying, “Yes, sweetie, you feel like this for a reason.”
I do not, however, believe there is only one college that will give Abby these dopamine poppers. I believe that God’s plan for her will work with whatever route Abby chooses.
He’s pretty good at recalculating the GPS for us.
Concordia College, Moorhead, MN
Abby and I had both been on Concordia’s campus before but hadn’t seen everything.
There is one very important thing about Concordia that most definitely does NOT check off a box for Abby: location.
It is too close to home.
She would not have a new city to explore. And that is also part of the college experience.
Concordia reminded me A LOT of St. Olaf’s. The overall feeling of it was so similar for me. I think a little less so for Abby, but when I asked if she liked it, she responded, “More than I wanted to.” The big differentiating factor between the two is Concordia has Speech, St. Olaf’s does not.
Creighton University, Omaha, NE
Our latest (and I’m not going to lie, I hope LAST) visit was to Creighton University. It is another private school with another intimidating-as-hell sticker price.
This place is IMPRESSIVE.
The campus is beautiful, sure, but the buildings are not new or even really updated in many cases. It oozes the type of old woodwork, arched doorway charm that I LOVE. Abby loved that about it, too, which made me feel good. I didn’t want her to only be enamored by the lipstick.
What was so impressive was the way the faculty and administration we met could demonstrate the types of relationships they developed with the students, and the focus on the whole student. It was clear that students didn’t come to this campus to learn from textbooks. They came to learn from experiences and from other people with diverse and incredible backgrounds.
It was also clear that her colleges classes would be nothing like mine were, meaning they wouldn’t be filled with rows of students staring blankly at yet another professor lecturing for yet another hour, the sound bouncing off their already fried brains. The classes would be filled with discussion and learning by doing and by traveling.
Did I mention I’m jealous?
Nevertheless, as we walked around campus, I checked all the likely places that rapists and human traffickers could hide, plugged the results into the algorithm I created, and gave the campus a score.
Ok, I’m exaggerating. But I was very reassured after learning about safety tools and measures in place.
She interviewed for four special programs, indicating her preference for the Honor’s Program. She had met a girl on the Special Program’s Day group chat prior to the visit and had been getting to know her. I had stalked her on social media—like any good mom—and when we walked into the spacious room for the Welcome, I, for some reason, recognized her from behind. Seeming to sense us, Noelle turned around and the girls ran to each other like twins who were separated at birth.
Not that I want Abby to choose a college because a friend is going there—and she won’t. But when there isn’t one right decision, but a place far from home can feel more like a home, you know you are making the decision right.
I’m trying to keep my busy little fingers off the decision process. I’ve been up for the road trips and certainly have opinions, but, this just in: IT’S NOT MY DECISION.
Not even a little bit.
And so the balance shifts.
Some people have commented, “Well, she’ll go wherever she gets the most money, right? All colleges are basically the same. It’s a financial decision.”
And I would say, “Thank you for sharing,” while I mentally punch the person in the face.
Ok, that’s aggressive. But seriously. If there is one thing we have learned in this world in the last couple of years it is that NOTHING IS JUST ONE THING.
College choice is not JUST a <fill in the blank> decision. It is a decision, like most meaningful things in life, that takes so many things into consideration.
My girl, please do not make this decision based on money. In my experience, no matter what my circumstances, I have "never had enough money" but I have always had "too many possessions."
You do the math.
I have traveled. I have redecorated. I've waited a week to buy milk. I’ve had cheap cars and expensive ones. Shacks and pretty homes.
The money, the possessions…none of it predicted my happiness.
I was just as happy barely getting by in our tiny, dumpy rental with my two girls as I was lying on the beach in the Caribbean.
You will always figure out the money. You just do.
Happiness, fulfillment—these things come from discovering yourself and loving both because of and in spite of your circumstances.
God has a purpose for you. You feel led in that. Your life will be about discovering and becoming that person. Only you can choose the conduit through which you become the best version of yourself.
To quote Matthew Kelly in Perfectly Yourself, “It is time to peel off the layers of conditioning and expectations that have encrusted your heart and mind.”
You can choose the place for those things to happen.