February 2014
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Spend some time with us! (It’s more important than you’d think)

In recent years, President’s Day has become quite meaningful to me. For even though as a college student, I don’t get the day off, I do use the holiday as a time to reflect upon the fact that I’m so fortunate to have chosen McDaniel, since it’s been such a great fit for me. My following story about how I came to know that McDaniel was “the one” is a bit of a long one, but it’s a worthwhile one, and I hope you’ll read it–it will give you some things to consider when making a final college decision no matter what colleges you end up being really interested in.

Every year, McDaniel’s admissions office hosts an event called Scholars on the Hill, where prospective students who are seeking to be in the Honors Program come to campus, sit in on classes, attend a luncheon. (It’s my understanding that they’ve also begun conducting scholarship interviews on this day, which began happening the year after I was a prospective student.) Three years ago on President’s Day, I got to come to this event, and it completely changed my life.

By February of my senior year of high school, I kind of had no clue where I wanted to go to college. I had been eying a few liberal arts schools that weren’t McDaniel, but when I went on day visits to them, I realized I hated them. I knew I really wanted to go to a small college, but I was realizing that there might not be one out there for me and that I might have to attend one of the larger colleges I had applied to as backups. But there were still a couple of small schools I hadn’t made second visits to yet, and McDaniel was one of them.

The Friday of President’s Day weekend, I had off from school, so I visited one of the two small colleges left on my list, which I ended up liking. I still had McDaniel to go visit, but that day, I had the relief of knowing that if McDaniel didn’t seem like a good fit, I would be able to have a little college to go to after all.

I visited McDaniel that Monday, which pretty much sealed the deal for me to come here. The fact that there had been a program set up specifically for prospective Honors students was cool because I got to meet professors, current Honors students, and other prospective Honors students, a number of whom ended up attending McDaniel with me. During the luncheon, there were a few presentations about the College and the Honors Program, and I was able to learn about McDaniel’s liberal arts curriculum, the McDaniel Plan, which seemed like it would be an excellent fit for my interests.

After the luncheon, I got a chance to tour a suite in Daniel McClea Hall (affectionately known as DMC), where Honors students get to live should they choose. (I lived in suite-style housing for two years and it’s awesome! Each suite has private bathrooms and its own common room.) But I wasn’t able to pay much attention to my surroundings because I found myself all-to-burdened by the ultimate question: McDaniel or not?

Luckily, as I stood dazed outside of DMC, where I was reunited with my mother, the director of the Honors Program, Dr. Stephanie Madsen, noticed me looking confused and asked me what was going through my mind. When I told her that I really liked McDaniel but that there were still a few concerns that I had, she walked me over to the English department, where I had already sat in on a Shakespeare class that morning. Here, I met a student (one I happen to be friends with today) who had encountered the same dilemma that I had of whether I choose McDaniel or the other school. (And her “other school” was the same one as mine.) She was able to talk me through why she chose McDaniel over the other school; she really liked the liberal arts curriculum here and how accessible classes in various disciplines are to students of all majors–something she felt she wouldn’t be able to get at the other school.

Dr. Madsen also stayed with me long enough for me to meet some English professors. One of these professors has become my favorite professors and my mentor, and now three years removed from being a prospective student, it blows me away that I got to meet and briefly chat with my now-favorite professor months before I even graduated high school! I talked to a few other English professors too, and they helped me compare McDaniel and the other college side-by-side.

By the end of my day, I was pretty sure McDaniel was the one. I returned from President’s Day weekend triumphant, and the next month on an Admitted Students Day, I returned to McDaniel for one last visit (just to be absolutely positively sure!) and to submit my deposit in person (which is a very exciting thing to do, if you get the chance).

Getting to visit McDaniel and actually meet people–both students and professors has made an incredible difference in my life, and if you have your heart set on a particular college or if you’re uncertain about where to go, I cannot recommend day visits enough, if you have the opportunity to do them. I would not have been able to successfully choose a college if I hadn’t sat in on classes at multiple schools and take the extra effort to talk to students and faculty to get a feel for what each school had to offer in terms of programs and community.

In spending an entire afternoon at McDaniel three years ago, I was able to discover that McDaniel has phenomenal professors and programs and a community that I could see myself as a part of. If you’re looking for a small liberal arts college with boundless opportunities, I urge you to put McDaniel on your list of colleges to spend some time at! To coordinate your visit, go here.

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