“What do you want out of college?”

My parents asked me this question at the start of junior year of high school, and despite years of studying and participating in activities I loved, I felt like I didn’t have an answer.

Around this time in my life, I had started dedicating an enormous amount of energy toward daydreaming about what college could be like. I would imagine myself thriving in a lecture hall like the ones pictured in the endless emails schools had begun sending to me.

When I was a little kid, I used to make my own TV show. I would tape myself interviewing friends or family members on our household desktop. “The Nicole Show” was a one-cut production that I kept in a desktop folder just in case E! News needed any material for my True Hollywood Story.

One day shortly after my parents had asked me that question, I came across that folder on my desktop. I watched all the videos and remembered my childhood dream to be on camera. The little fifth grader on the screen felt so different from the overworked student I had become, and I felt nostalgic for her innocence and passion.

I realized I wanted college to reignite my childhood sense of curiosity. I began investigating journalism schools on College Board, and I fell in love with Medill. Not only was the reputation of Medill exceptional, but also I wanted the sense of community the journalism school would provide within a larger university.

I spent the following months preparing to apply early decision, meaning that I would definitely attend Northwestern if I were accepted. I visited campus during one of the worst snow storms Evanston has seen in the past five years. The tour was practically empty, and I was the only attendee at the Medill information session. I sat alone in the lecture hall, which looked just like the ones on the pamphlets, with long elevated desks and big windows. Despite the fact it was a cold Friday evening, Medill Professor Emily Withrow gave me a presentation and answered my questions. I was amazed that a busy Medill professor would take time out her schedule to speak with a prospective student. Professor Withrow would go on to teach my Multimedia Reporting class in the spring of my first year at Northwestern, and she’s still someone I’d go to for support.

I wanted to go to college to ask new questions, just like I did when I was young. Northwestern has prompted my curiosity in the classroom and beyond, reconnecting me with my love for learning.

My Tips:

  • Research colleges and list at least one experience each school offers that’s unlike anything you’ve done before
  • Compare those experiences
  • Northwestern’s academic and social culture will stand out
  • Ask questions for yourself
  • When you put yourself first, success will follow

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