Perhaps the question I hear most often—and always the one I dread answering the most—from prospective students is “Why did you choose WashU?” My apprehension has nothing to do with my inability to answer the question at all; instead, it has everything to do with my confidence in my ability to encapsulate everything that I love and believe is special about WashU in my answer. Because the truth is that many of the reasons why I love WashU are generally things that I could have found at another university. By this I mean friends whom I love and who love me, interesting classes, amazing professors, a myriad of extracurricular activities, the list goes on. Ultimately, though, I chose WashU because I felt comfortable: like I could be myself here, yet challenged at the same time.
I first visited WashU in the fall of my junior year as part of the university’s fly-in program, WashU Preview. To be honest, WashU wasn’t close to the top of my list of colleges at the time, so to think that it eventually became my first choice is mind-boggling. I figured that WashU Preview would be a great opportunity to visit St. Louis and the campus—hey, it was a trip sponsored and financially supported by the university so why would I complain! My first view of WashU was of the colorful facades of Umrath House on the South 40, the town-like area of campus that houses the freshman and sophomore dorms, a gym, a dining hall, and a small grocery store.
The rest of campus did not let me down; the Gothic architecture is stunning and to this day, I still marvel at the buildings on campus. I met with my Overnight Welcome Leader (OWL) shortly after arriving and she helped me settle in before I was off to follow the busy schedule of events that had been planned for me: tours, meals, presentations, sit-in classes, social events, etc. What I remember most distinctly is that on my last day on campus, my OWL, her friend, and I had lunch and they told me about their experiences at WashU. Their openness and willingness to share made me feel more at ease amid all the new things I was experiencing at the time. Soon, it was time to leave. I had visited campus with no expectations, yet the experience surpassed anything I could have envisioned.
On my flight back to New York, I searched for a word that I thought could encompass what I had learned about WashU during my brief time there. I settled for this one: collaborative. I felt—and still feel—that this word embodies the people and spirit of WashU. This kind of energy resonated with me because collaboration and building people up alongside me is something that I greatly value. I wanted my college experience to connect closely with this and I felt that on campus, I should and could do as such.
To return to my earlier point about feeling comfortable on campus: that collaborative feeling was a major part of it. But I want to expand upon it and say that I chose WashU because it felt like the right school for me. It takes a lot for me to center allegiance to a new place, but at WashU, I feel at home—from my first few moments on campus to now, writing at my desk while quarantined in my home in New York. WashU holds an exceptional place in my heart and I hope that it comes to hold one in yours too.