Last week on Loopers, there was a discussion about going to college. I was too sick to join in the conversation then so I thought I would post my story on my blog. I am not posting this story to brag, but I'm hoping it may help the Looper that originally asked the college question.
I studied very hard in school so I had very good grades. I was ranked 3rd in my class in high school until my final semester when I took calculus and physics (yes, I took these for fun!) dropped me to 5th in my class. I did not do fantastic on my ACT or SAT, but my class rank was enough for some colleges to notice. Ball State offered me a full ride of tuition. I didn't want to go there because it had the reputation of being a party school. Looking back, maybe I should have commuted from home and gone to school for free for a year or two.
My parents gave me a lot of freedom for college choice. Basically the only school I wasn't allowed to go to was Valpo because it's not Lutheran!
I applied for a lot of scholarships when I was in high school. I got a lot of small ($500) scholarships which all added up. I did best at ones like American Legion and local ones even though local was the second largest town in Indiana. If I remembered the deadline and applied each year of school, they would usually give me money each year too, even though it was only advertised for high school seniors. These local groups usually have money to give away but people don't apply for it or meet the deadline or have a nice typed letter or whatever reason.
I had gone to Art of Music camp at Concordia, River Forest a few summers while I was in high school. After this I had a fantasy view of Concordia, RF. I really wanted to go there. I wanted to be within walking distance of the city and sightsee Chicago and be part of their great Wind Ensemble and be part of their social life that I saw a small part of those summers at music camp. When the financial aid package came, RF gave me almost nothing. There was no way my parents could afford that kind of tuition.
My dad had worked out a family vacation while I was in high school so we had a tour of Concordia Wisconsin. It was ok, but not my dream school like RF. Right away 1/2 the tuition was paid with an academic scholarship and there were other small scholarships. The problem was it was 6 hours away from home and no one from our area, hardly anyone from our state went there. But the fact that I never had to go outside in the winter was very appealing. The buildings are all connected (dorms, cafeteria, chapel, library, classrooms, everything!)
It was embarrassing at the high school honors banquets to have no idea where I was going to college. Even on graduation day I still didn't know. The first born in me sat down and ran the numbers one more time a few days after graduation. It was obvious that financially CUW would work, RF no way. I tried calling RF and pleading with their financial aid office with not one more penny of success. I called CUW and told them I would be attending there in the fall. I returned a phone call to RF and told them I would be going to CUW and why.
A couple of days later, who should call but RF! How much did CUW give you? Would you still come to RF if we matched CUW? I was furious. I had just called a few days before and tried to work with them without any success. I told them no, I had already agreed to CUW.
It ended up that there were only 6 people from the entire state of Indiana that went to CUW when I was a freshman. I was the only flute in the wind ensemble when I was a freshman. I have no idea if I would have been good enough to even audition for the RF Wind Ensemble. The CUW band director talked a couple of other girls into coming to concerts a few times a year but for most of the year I was the entire flute section! The band director promised me we would go on tour before I graduated. We went to both New Orleans and Atlanta on tours before I graduated.
Financially, after scholarships, it was cheaper my freshman year of college to pay tuition and room and board than what my parents had paid the previous year for my Lutheran high school tuition. That is when I knew I had made the right decision to go to CUW.
My sophomore and junior years cost a little more as some scholarships were one time scholarships. My parents paid my tuition/room and board after scholarships for my first 3 years of college. I was on my own for my senior year because by that point they needed to also pay for my sister's Lutheran high school tuition. By this point college tuition had risen since my freshman year. Plus there were extra expenses of student teaching and graduation. The problem is that the financial aid office doesn't understand at all when your parents have been paying for you and now they won't. I got a very small student loan and had to scramble in my meager savings and do extra babysitting etc. to come up with the rest by the time it was due. I even remember I owed some the last semester and they warned me several times that I wouldn't get my diploma unless it was paid. Thankfully I paid everything on time and got out in 4 years! And I easily paid back my very small school loan the first year after I graduated.
Anyway, I had great friends and I'm really glad that I went to CUW. I'm afraid that I might have been disappointed if I would have picked RF because of my expectations for RF. I know I would have graduated with a lot of debt if I would have chosen RF. For several years after I graduated from college, it seemed like all the RF grads that I met were complete snobs. It didn't matter if it was someone from the Seminary or someone that I taught with or a friend of a friend, they were snobs. One is the only girl I've ever met that knew so much about engagement/wedding rings without actually wearing one on her finger. The way she talked the ring was much more important than the guy! I tried very hard to not stereotype RF grads, but it just kept happening! I am so thankful that recently I have met a few RF grads that are not like that. I can think of two regular blog readers that are RF grads!
I don't know if anything in this blog post will help the Looper that asked the question, but it has been fun for me to write out my memories. I guess the biggest point I want to make is just because you think as a high school student that you know the perfect school for you, it may not end up to be the perfect school for you. God truly did have the perfect school picked for me and it wasn't the one I thought it was.