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Why Taylor?

            How did you hear about Taylor? This question is posed to me a lot. Why would a suburbanite from Miami, Florida come to Upland, Indiana? The two-word answer is the internet, but the full answer tells a great story of God’s will for my life.

            Where did I want to go to college? It was an obvious answer: somewhere out of State. I applied to one in-state college, the University of North Florida (UNF) which is my father and mother’s Alma Matter, since it was a good backup plan. It was near where my mother’s side of the family live, Jacksonville, Florida; and under Florida Bright Futures, a program set up by the lottery to pay for good student’s college education, I would get 75% of the cost of attending UNF paid for. Most people I talked to were thus surprised by my desire to go to an obscure out of State college in a cold place in the middle of nowhere. They expected me to go to either the public University of Florida, an amazing deal for in-state students, as it was practically free; or the private University of Miami, the best local college. I did not apply to either of the two and UNF was only a backup plan. I could not stay in relatively the same area I had spent all my life, when I could experience freedom in a different land. I thus turned to the internet.

            I had always thought of the Midwest as a nice place to live. The price for shelter is affordable, the people are wholesome, and the land has a certain beauty to it. There is no beach in Indiana, but I liked that fact. I had acquired a hatred of the beach from the ridiculous amount of time my parents brought me there. Being the curious person I am, I had read that Kokomo, Indiana was the most affordable area to live in the country. Living in the real estate madhouse that is Miami, and being versed in finance, as my father is a banker, I saw the value of setting up my life in an affordable location. What made Miami worth paying five times as much for the same real estate? Nothing to me. The beginning of my junior year I took the PSAT which gave a range to expect for my SAT; I could now begin my college search in earnest.

I used the collegeboard.com search tools to locate possible colleges. I tinkered around with the search several times, but the query kept pulling up Taylor University; it was in the Midwest, it fit my possible SAT range, it was Christian but not aligned with one specific church, and it had my intended major, Chemistry Education. Interestingly enough it was near Kokomo, a city that had already been on my mind due to that article I had read. When I looked through the information, it listed as unique facilities a NASA-approved clean room, particle accelerator, and NASA project space research equipment. The physical science connoisseur in me loved the idea of going to a college that contained these. When I looked at a teaching website, Taylor University was recognized as having a nationally recognized science education program; no university in the state of Florida was on this list. Early on, I was already confident in my selection of Taylor University. My visit to Taylor increased this certainty.

            In the spring of my junior year, my dad and I took a trip to visit Taylor University on designated Campus Visitation Days. I loved it! It was like a hidden gem: an outstanding University in the middle of apparent nothingness. The campus was great in making us feel welcomed. Chapel was a great time of worship, and the food was far better than what I got in the Dade Christian School cafeteria my, the cafeteria of the private school I had been in since 4K. I felt part of the family as the campus mourned for the victims of the deadly car accident. Sure, the dorm stay was in the Third East Wengatz lounge (the wing I am ironically on right now), and during my visit I noted the usual Christian sins of hypocrisy, but I still came away with a positive view of the University. I completed my interview, talked with Al Harrison, and went on my way. I could not wait to apply to Taylor University under a special early action offered to visitors. I applied to Taylor University really early into my senior year and proceeded to visit two other colleges I had looked at, Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois and Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois.

            Visiting the two campuses, I was disappointed by what I found there. At Bradley, I found more fraternities and sororities than I thought possible in an ugly run down city. At Wheaton, I found an arrogant and haughty student body. These were my last visits to universities. I quickly finished the rest of my college applications and sent them to the other schools I was applying to:  Bradley University, Wheaton College, Miami University of Ohio, Cedarville University, and the University of North Florida. My application for Wheaton was apparently not as complete as I thought, however.

            As the Wheaton College regular admission deadline approached, I got a notice telling me that my recommendations were not completed. My teachers stated they had sent them in. When I called to check, admissions did not find it. I thought, “Great, I did all that work to make the early action deadline just to be told two months later that I did not have my recommendations in.” In contrast, Taylor University had always kept me aware of my status, mostly electronically. This was not the final Wheaton mess up, however. I was soon disappointed by Wheaton College once again.

            Having applied for both the Taylor University and Wheaton College ethnic student scholarship, I was accepted for Taylor University’s scholarship but not Wheaton College’s scholarship. As I struggled to discover God’s will for my life, this made it abundantly clear: God wanted me to go to Taylor University. At this point, I began to complete a rational argument to go to Taylor University.

Taylor University was offering me a leadership position right off the back, a chance to play in the band as a non-music major, and an opportunity to experience life in a rural setting away from distractions. Though I was already set on Taylor, I continued to contemplate the decision. Having been accepted to all six colleges I applied to, I examined the merit-based aid being offered.

            I wanted to be able to give my father as well as myself a good financial reason to go out of state. Bradley University offered sixty percent, Taylor offered twenty-five percent (Dean’s Scholarship with Ethnic Student Scholarship), Miami University of Ohio and Cedarville offered comparable amounts to Taylor, and the University of North Florida would be virtually free as I discussed earlier. Though I did not think of money as the biggest issue in choosing what college I would go to, it helped me to eliminate several choices. Miami University did not make it worth my while to go to an out of state public university; and Cedarville University did not stand out against Taylor with its similar aid package. Wheaton College’s merit-based aid package is not in the above list; a good reason exists for this.

            When I looked for Wheaton College offered me, I could not find it. In my acceptance packet, I found what I needed to access it online. After a frustrating amount of attempts, I finally accessed it, and to my dismay, I found out I had to fill out a FAFSA supplement; at this point, this was not going to happen in time for the aid deadline. It may have been a measly five percent that I would have been offered, but now I would be offered nothing. Taylor University, in contrast, made the process as easy as possible. This final bureaucratic mess secured my rejection of Wheaton College. Bradley University was easier to turn down.

I had several reasons for turning down Bradley’s generous financial aid package. I did not like the idea of living in a place with that much air pollution and Greek life. I also figured that I would have plenty of time to live in the city after college, and this was my chance to experience rural life. Though Bradley was not a Christian college, I had noticed on my trip there that it had a distinct Christian element. I wanted to be part of a college with a defined Christian purpose, however. I rejected Bradley University offer of admittance. I now had to make a decision on UNF.

I got a letter from the University of North Florida simply stating I was accepted to the college. UNF did not send me countless of personal letters like Taylor University did. I expected UNF to actively pursue me; I was the son of the founder of the international students program there, had a great GPA and SAT, and would diversify their student body. They did not give me one phone call. In contrast, Taylor University seemed to go all out getting me to come here. I would rather go to a college that showed a desire to have me there. I rejected UNF’s offer of admittance. I accepted Taylor University’s offer of admittance. 

I am completely satisfied with my decision to attend Taylor. Though the cost may make me wonder whether this decision was the best one, I am constantly reminded that this is where God wants me. I only have to reflect on what has brought me here to remind myself that I belong here. 

 

©2008 Jorge Eduardo Fernandez