What Makes Your College Hat Fit Just Right?

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Written by Kaelin Cooley

What makes your top choice college different from others? Is it the food? The campus? The athletic department? Are the academics outstanding? There’s a lot of pressure in determining which college or university to attend and commit years of your life. Most of the time, you have input from friends, family, mentors, and educators, but nothing should matter more than your input on where you will do best. 

Finishing my junior year of high school, I had absolutely no idea where I wanted to go to college or what I even wanted to study. Like many students, I just knew I wanted to go. Once you take the ACT or SAT, a lot of colleges will spam you with mail, trying to get you to attend their school without actually caring about who you are as a person. I looked through these, did some google searches just to see what these schools had to offer, but nothing stood out to me. Over time, I started to make a list of schools. With my parents, I planned a road trip to go visit schools in and out of state, virtually visiting the ones too far away. 

This small private liberal arts school in Oregon was nothing outstanding to me. However, as a volleyball player for 7 years previously, I was able to talk to the JV coach at this D3 school. Don’t be afraid to reach out to the faculty at a school- it shows your interest and builds connections! 

The campus was small but beautiful. It felt like a very tight knit community surrounded by a small town. After this visit, I stayed in contact with the JV coach, and she expressed interest in having me work towards the varsity team. One thing I knew before applying to colleges was that if I had the opportunity to continue playing volleyball through school, I would take the chance. Long story short, this plan for volleyball fell through on the coach’s end after I had already paid and accepted to attend this University. Although I did enjoy the school for reasons other than volleyball, my heart was shattered. 

Once classes started, I made friends and memories, but everyone else was a part of some sport or activity at the school, including my roommate. I was not. I started to feel out of place, just an empty seat to fill at the school. Anxiety and depression hit me the hardest during my freshman year, but after a year of struggling, I realized I needed to make a change. If you are not thriving where you are or feeling accepted, you can always transfer to a school that fits you better.

A large D1 University in Idaho caught my eye: my best friend was currently attending, their athletic department was large and exciting, and I did not have to be in a sport to feel accepted. I transferred to this University my sophomore year of college, and it was the best decision I ever made. I immediately felt at home, enjoying my classes and the community around me.  I took the risk to transfer with lower grades, but over the four years I attended this University I was able to earn my place on the Dean’s list and substantially improved my GPA. After this, I then received 5 Master of Athletic Training Programs acceptances. From there, I made sure to pick my graduate school based on where I felt most accepted, important, and valued. I hope you can learn from my experience and find a school that feels like home.

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