How I chose my college

I am in the midst of writing a post on why it’s a good idea to set rules for decisions in advance. It’s becoming apparent that I have done this a lot in my life without even realizing it in the moment, so I’m going to give these situations the depth they deserve and give each their own post.

The Context

When I was getting ready to go to college, my first priority was that I wanted to go out of state. I had an immense desire to get new experiences and genuinely believe the only way to get them was to move out of my hometown of Memphis, TN. I also wanted to make great international connections, so I decided that the University of Central Florida looked to be my best option. It’s proximity to Walt Disney World would help me to get my foot in at a company that was respected around the world as well as give me the chance to work abroad with them. I applied to the University of Memphis only as a backup.

The Rule

Before applying, I told myself that if I could at least get out-of-state tuition waived, then I could justify the loans for tuition.

The Decision

My academic career was not strong enough to warrant a waiver of the out-of-state tuition. I reluctantly went to the University of Memphis with a determination that I would do better in school this time around and get better choices should I decide to go on to graduate school or even in the workplace.

The Outcome

This compounded into really great things both on a financial level as well as simple exposure.

Money

I got so much in scholarship money from the University of Memphis that I was actually paid to go to school and I was able to keep living at home (saving myself the huge budget expense of rent). A majority of my peers are not this fortunate, and the lack of student loans has been exponential in my ability to take on opportunities.

This money also allowed me to take up a fun class every semester where I took on courses in things like running, Zumba, and even Scuba diving. It also gave me the chance to fulfill my internship requirement in an awesome way that connected me with that desire to work for Disney: The Disney College Program. For those of you considering it or if you know someone who is, you should be aware up front that it doesn’t pay much, so the extra scholarship money was significant in my being able to pull that off while also paying my other bills.

Exposure

In a weird way, I also got far more exposure by going to a smaller school.

The Disney College Program experience brought me into contact with guests and co-workers from around the world. To this day, it’s still a work experience employers want to talk about even though it was eight years ago and more directly relevant to my business career than my current one in web development.

I studied abroad cheaply thanks to scholarships. I even spent a spring break with a small group of undergrad and graduate students in our business school on an experience abroad in Panama. We connected with another business school based inside of a hotel there where we learned how they structured their curriculum. Even better was the chance to learn from expats on how they work as hotel General Managers in foreign countries. This exposure was exactly what I wanted when I chose Hospitality as my major – I wanted to work abroad.

Also, Memphis has an active business community that is deeply invested in the university’s business school. I met many entrepreneurs and executive-level folks, all of whom had such an impact in grounding our theoretical studies to the tangible. One of which even led to one of my more profound local work experiences. I didn’t make that much back from scholarships, so I did work through all four years of school.


 

In summation, setting that rule in advance kept me from making an emotional decision in regards to school. More importantly, I used the outcome to my advantage so that I could still get everything I wanted out of going somewhere like UCF. Looking back, I definitely got more than I could have wanted out of the experience and am confident that it was certainly more than I would have gotten from UCF.

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