With COVID-19, a lot of people are re-thinking their college choices. Is now the right time to go to a 4 year school? Honestly, if it’s all online and you want the college experience, probably not. However, I would not change a thing about my college experience and I wanted to share a little bit about it reflecting back on the fact that it’s now been 5 years since I graduated from Christopher Newport University.
In 2010 and 2011 I was a senior in high school. I was doing all the typical things, playing field hockey, coaching middle school lacrosse, loads of volunteers hours, and running my Girl Scout Gold Award project.
I honestly remember the day that I got my first college acceptance. My senior year our high school schedule changed so fall semester three days a week, I didn’t have an in-person class after 11 a.m. I had an internship and two independent studies (one of which was my journalism class). I went home to prep for a field hockey game after school, and the mail came while I was at home. The acceptance letter was in the mailbox. They had moved the game to the turf field at UVA because of poor weather leading up to the game. It was actually really funny because I had been discussing this particular school during field hockey practice a few days prior and I made the statement I didn’t write the essay. Keep in mind, this school was the definition of a safety school for me, like there was no plausible way I was not getting in based on my credentials. One of the girls on the team actually told me, “well if you didn’t write the optional essay they’ll reject you even if you meet all the criteria”. Well, jokes on her because I got in.
Spoiler alert: I actually got into all of the schools I applied to.
I ended up applying to eight schools. I applied to CNU 10 minutes before the deadline. Yep, 10 minutes. Sorry, mom.
I am very fortunate and my undergraduate tuition was paid for me. I was only responsible for books, room, and board. If I went out of state, I would also be responsible for tuition.
My parents had taken us to Charleston, SC years prior on a trip and I loved it. My parents agreed to take me down for a few days during Spring Break to listen to the admissions talk and visit the campus. I fell in love. However, that out of state tuition price tag, with only loans to help pay for it, would not be happening. I’m so glad I made this decision even though it was super hard to say no to such a beautiful and wonderful school.
I went to visit CNU during an admitted freshman day. These days are known for being a show; however at CNU it really isn’t. Yes, they pull out fancy stuff but you can tell what is extra and what is real life pretty easily (like the pep band playing does not happen every day, and I actually think they took this out of the admitted freshman day schedule since I attended in 2011). The one thing I really took away from CNU was how pretty it was, but how it also had other things I was interested in when looking at a school. Its size was relatively small (about 5,000 undergraduate students at the time). It has a fantastic Communication Studies program, but also has programs unique to CNU like the President’s Leadership Program. I was able to ride on the Equestrian Team all 4 years. I was able to found and join my sorority chapter. I was able to volunteer over 60 hours every school year in different aspects of the Newport News community. I was able to work in events and learn more about things that interested me. Every single one of my professors knew my name by the end of the first week of classes. Y’all, that does not happen at many universities. In fact, my grad classes are typically about 18 students, and I have to remind some of my professors my name on a weekly basis.
My roommate was also the best. CNU is a primarily residential campus, and I had agreed to be a high school classmate’s roommate. Little did I know, that it would not work out. However, that was definitely for the best. We switched roommates (literally) and I got the best end of that deal! Lindsey (I know, I lived with a girl named Lindsey, it’s confusing) was legit the best roommate I could have asked for. We ended up living together for the rest of our time at CNU, and I’m so glad that we did! She’s still one of my best friends and will definitely be in my wedding one day.
I also met my other best friend at CNU. Y’all, when I tell you the people I became friends with at CNU are pure gold, I mean it. Lili overslept, and I was banging on her door to take me to the ER so I didn’t die of supposed appendicitis freshman year. Good news, I didn’t have appendicitis. She ended up staying with me all day, and made sure that I got dinner and had someone with me at all times. Her mom even offered to drive down to stay with me (even though at the time she didn’t know me from a hole in the wall) because my mom and dad couldn’t come down (my mom had just had her first knee replacement and had a complication). I don’t know if this was the experience bonded us for life, but we’re definitely stuck with each other. Lili is someone that will definitely be in my wedding one day.
Junior year (specifically spring semester) was a hot mess for me. This was the semester my grandfather passed away and the semester I ended up in a walking boot for 3 months. Talk about rough. My professors were willing to work with me. I actually specifically remember having a conversation with one of my professors that I will never forget. He wanted to have class outside, and I couldn’t walk down the marble staircase in the building (walking boot problems). So, I said I was taking the elevator and I meet everyone outside of Regatta’s when I got there. He ended up taking the elevator with me and asked how I was doing. Me being me, I was like I’m fine. His response to that was, “No, how are you really doing? You’ve been in class every day yet you lost someone important to you and you have medical stuff going on”. I never asked to miss any more classes, I just showed up and did our work. This professor reminded me it was okay to take time for myself and that if I needed it, to do it and he wouldn’t question my absence except to check in and make sure I didn’t need anything. This was the same professor who offered to drive me to the hospital or a doctor’s office to have x-rays on my foot done. I refused for the simple reason that if a bone is broken in your foot it can take up to 2 weeks to show up on an x-ray. 2 weeks was Spring Break. I could go see my doctor at home and get everything taken care of at once. Every Thanksgiving he offers up a spot at his family dinner table for any student that can’t go home. He didn’t even bat an eye when I showed up 40 minutes late for a 50 minute class. The only class that I overslept for, and quite frankly that 10 minute walk from Rappahannock to McMurran was rough in a walking boot. Y’all he’s a great person, and he forever changed how I think about what makes a great teacher. Hopefully, I embody a little bit of him for all my students, past, present, and future. He’s just one example of the many great professors at CNU.
The opportunities that I had at CNU are unmatched and unparalleled compared to other universities. I also know that CNU is exactly what I needed at the time and that it helped shape me into who I am today. CNU is 3 hours away from home (depending on traffic, we definitely did it in 2.5 hours before). I was not a big fan of being that far away from home without a way to get home on my own (I did not take a car, but you can have a car all four years if you want). However, it was honestly not a big deal in the end and it always worked out if I wanted or needed to go home.
Bottom line of would I pick another college 5 years later? Would I chose to redo it to go to College of Charleston or JMU over CNU? Absolutely 100% no.