Finding the right choice

For Jewell Porter '16, the right college wasn't her first choice, here's why

Jewell Porter '16 is a political science major, a history minor and an editor of the Denisonian student-run campus newspaper. In the summer of 2015, she was an intern with the Pittsburgh Post Gazette. Her article about moving beyond disappointment was published in the Post Gazette on October 2, 2015.

I’ve always loved New York City. My earliest memory from New York is a picturesque frame of businessmen and businesswomen rushing past tall skyscrapers and through busy sidewalks with Starbucks coffee in one hand and a leather briefcase in the other. I looked up to them, and I so eagerly wanted to be one of them.

Naturally, when I sat down in my college counselor’s office my junior year listing my top colleges, my first choice was New York University. At the age of 17, I was eager to find my own place in the city and buy my own cup of Starbucks coffee and fashionable leather briefcase.

I saw exactly how my life would go. After receiving my undergraduate degree, I would earn my master’s in journalism from NYU’s journalism school and then go on to work as a reporter in New York or Washington, D.C. Next, I would work my way up to becoming an editor at either the New York Times or the Washington Post. Whichever offered me the best deal, really.

We have the opportunity to really create our college experience, rather than have it dictated to us.

But then I got rejected from NYU in the spring semester of my senior year, and I was convinced that the rest of my goals were, consequently, unreachable. I questioned, “How am I going to run a newspaper in at least 20 years if I couldn’t even complete step one of my post-high school plans?”

Rather than attending a university of almost 25,000 undergraduate students in a city of 8.4 million, I went to Denison University, a small liberal arts college in Granville, Ohio, in a village of about 5,700 people, including the 2,200 students who go to Denison.

Imagine my initial disappointment.

But three years after the first time I stepped foot on campus, I’m so glad that I ended up at my small liberal arts college, tucked away between the corn fields and the forest, because the experiences that I’ve had there are invaluable.

When you are considering a small liberal arts college like Denison, the brochures, of course, tell you the face-value benefits: small class sizes, a high quality education, knowing most of your classmates and living on the hill for all four years.

But those are just the ones that they tell you to rein you in. Once you become an actual Denisonian, you learn the true highs and lows of what it means to be one. But the truth is, most of the lows are actually highs as well.

For example, at a liberal arts college, everything is controversial, from the compost bins in the dining hall to the way that our student government is run.

But see, this is why that’s a good thing: Everyone has an opinion. Because everyone has an opinion, everyone has a different perspective to offer in order to progressively improve campus life.

We’re willing to debate and argue until we reach a compromise that best suits the needs of the student body. And more often than not, the decisions that we come up with actually affect our daily lives on the hill.

We have the opportunity to really create our college experience, rather than have it dictated to us. If we want to start a new club or double major in biology and English, then we are encouraged to do so. There is no one universal way to experience Denison.

Along the way, we make connections with friends and faculty, whom I believe will be resources for life because we’re all given the opportunity to get to know each other on a deeper level than that one professor who taught my intro to philosophy class or that one student who sat next to me in econometrics.

And really, this is what I will remember most from my Denison career. The great education is important to me, too, but most invaluable are the experiences I’ve had and the people I’ve been blessed to cross paths with.

I still hope that I’ll make a name for myself in the journalism world, but Denison has taught me that there is no one way to achieve your dreams.

October 7, 2015