College – Your choice, not everyone else’s

Khanh Nguyen, Special to The A-Blast

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Why George Mason University?” is a question I have become very accustomed to hearing and answering almost every time I tell a fellow student or even a teacher that GMU is my dream school. Growing up, much was expected from me – maintaining straight A’s, pursuing the IB diploma, and getting accepted into and choosing UVA or NYU or even Yale. To many people’s surprise, none of those things are in my agenda. Although I have maintained a GPA above a 4.0, I never once had all A’s throughout high school so far. This year, I chose the advanced diploma because I understood myself, how much I could have handled, and the simple yet truthful fact that a piece of paper does not and will not necessarily define my future.

Countless looks of disappointment and shock are continuously shot my way when I proudly tell people GMU is where I want to pursue my desired career of psychology and eventually, psychiatry. For the past three years of high school, I have always felt obligated to not “settle” for someplace like GMU and it hurt every time I was judged for wanting to attend there. It has not been easy, but the more research I do about the school and the more I visit other schools, including “better” ones, the more I realize that GMU has my heart, not only financially, but academically, emotionally, and mentally.

As one of the largest and most diverse universities in the state of Virginia with a student population of over 33,000, GMU is a place where students and faculty members can interact with a vast amount of cultures and people from all walks of life. It is not only a learning environment for academics, but also a place for growing and expanding one’s mind. Diversity is one of the biggest factors that play into why I want to attend GMU as a minority student.

With the country’s capital of Washington, D.C. only 15 minutes away from campus, opportunities for internships and even jobs are endless! As a psychology major, INOVA Hospital in Fairfax would be the perfect place for me to build connections in the medical field and gain work experience while attending GMU where psychology is one of the most popular and successful majors. Ultimately, it does not matter where you go to school, whether that is a community college, GMU, or even Harvard, if you do not have connections, solid work ethic, experience, and passion. It is not about where you go, but rather, why you choose to go there and what you make out of it for yourself.

I was fortunate enough to be in touch with the advising office coordinator of psychology at GMU, Dr. Michael Hurley, who offered me the amazing chance to sit in a psychology class. Even with more than 33,000 current students and a couple other thousands of applicants, the faculty members take time out of their busy schedules to aid anyone and everyone. That goes to show how much the school is willing to help students strive toward their futures.

The more people tell me I can do “more” and I should not be going someplace so close to home, the more determined I am to earn my way into GMU and to prove to them that a “real” college experience and independence are not determined by how far away you go, but what you choose for yourself, be it a few miles from your house or thousands across the country. I know myself better than anyone else and my intuition continues to tell me that Mason is it.

College is your first big and independent choice to make, and if you make it based off of what everyone else seems to want for you, you could potentially lead yourself down the path of living for others the rest of your life. College is about you and only you; not your friends, your boy/girlfriend, your parents, or even your teachers. It is you who will be spending four years, if not more, of your life at that college, whichever one it may be. It is you who will be paying your tuition, you who will be making the best (or worst) of where you are and what you have, you who will be living.

When it comes down to it, this is why I want to attend GMU – it feels like home. Short and simple, but also incredibly true. It has felt like home for me since my very first visit the summer before my eighth grade year. Everything there feels like the absolute perfect fit, from the endless diversity of the students to the professors to even the food. Walking onto a college campus should feel like falling in love, like entering a room and only seeing the person you want to spend the upcoming years with. No doubts, no second thoughts. And that is exactly what GMU feels like to me – a place I can and hopefully will call home.

Good luck to all the seniors this year who are debating between schools and to my class of 2018 for next year with our own college applications and decisions! Remember that “college is a match to be made, not a prize to be won.” 

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