Editor’s Note: A little more information about the author… Katie Zoellner is a senior Accountancy major with a double minor in Spanish and Economics. She is involved in various College of Business organizations such as Delta Sigma Pi, Dean’s Scholars, and Beta Alpha Psi, where she serves as President Elect. Outside the CoB, Katie is an active member of the Northern Ambassadors where she is proud to serve as one of the Student Coordinators. In her spare time, she watches Disney movies, writes poetry, and takes naps whenever possible. This is her first guest blog post, and she would like to thank her mom and sister for their help and feedback while writing it. Go Huskies!
Choosing a college to attend is hard; at least, for me it was. Along with all the excitement my senior of high school year brought, it also brought the stress of applying to, visiting, and eventually deciding where I was going to spend my next 4+ years. I applied to 10 (yes, really, 10) schools because I had absolutely no idea what I wanted out of my college experience. I applied to schools that were big, small, public, private, urban, rural, in state, out of state – basically I tried to hit the whole spectrum, just to cover all my bases.
From the initial list of 10, I began narrowing my choices. Eventually, I was down to three schools and was debating the pros and cons of all of them. Northern wasn’t on that list. I had applied on a whim, and the next day thought to myself “well I don’t want to go there…that was a waste of an application fee.” Boy was I wrong.
After receiving a generous scholarship package, NIU was right up there on the list. And I was terrified. I was afraid NIU made the short list for all the wrong reasons. I didn’t want to pick a school based purely on money, although it was a strong consideration. I knew I couldn’t afford my quote on quote “dream school,” but I still had other schools I was thinking about.
After further consideration, I had narrowed my choices even further. NIU and one other university were all that remained. I visited campus on an Admitted Students Day, where I had the chance to get a campus tour and meet with representatives from NIU’s College of Business. That day, I was fortunate enough to connect with an alumni presenter, Ralph Strozza, CEO of Interpro Translation Solutions, who was in the field I (at the time) wanted to pursue – translation.
This is where the scale began to tip in NIU’s favor – it was the right price, the right distance from home, housed fantastic academics, and I already felt valued by the CoB and connected to its alumni.
My mom then said to me something I will never forget: “If you don’t like it, you can always transfer.”
This, to me, was an epiphany. I was stuck in the mindset that the choice I made right then, as a high school senior, was going to determine the rest of my life (a bit dramatic, yes, but I was in high school – cut me some slack). So I took a leap of faith and made the choice to come to NIU. And that’s where the fun started.
College is an amazing opportunity to explore who you are and discover more about the wonderful world we live in. Even though I wasn’t initially 100% sold on coming to NIU, I opened myself up to new experiences and gave it a chance. I tried new things. I made new friends. I got involved in campus activities and organizations right away. I was hooked. I’m now in my senior year at NIU, with plans to graduate in May and then stick around for a while longer to complete my Master’s degree. After that, I know I’ll be coming back to visit, because NIU is and forever will be my home.
If I hadn’t made the effort to transform NIU from “where I go to school” to “home,” I can almost guarantee that I would’ve transferred after a year. And this is where I’ll circle back to the point I made at the beginning of this article: choosing a school is hard. There is no easy way to make that decision.
The best advice I can give is to choose a school where you feel that you can excel. It doesn’t matter if this wasn’t your “dream school,” or if your best friend doesn’t go there too. What makes or breaks your college experience is being in an environment that allows you to find and chase your passions. The right school can help you do that.
Throughout my college career, I’ve learned that if you don’t like something, CHANGE IT. This applies to life in general, but as far as college goes, if you’re unhappy at your school, look into other options. Not every school is the right fit for every student. But before you go and transfer, make sure you’re giving college a chance. Try new things, meet new people, and if you’re not happy – move on. Keep going until you find something you love. Don’t remain stagnant. Don’t wait for happy to come to you. Go forth, find it, and refuse to settle for less.
The support I have felt from my Huskie family – my friends, my professors, and my fellow students – has helped me to grow both personally and professionally. I’ve gone from a timid freshman to a confident senior who has a much clearer idea of what I want from my future. NIU has helped me create my personal definition of happiness, and who knows? It could help you do the same.