Jaro: Second time through college search, no regrets about choosing Northwestern

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Jaro: Second time through college search, no regrets about choosing Northwestern

Jan Jaro, Columnist

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At this time last year, I had no idea that Morton Schapiro was the best university president ever, had never heard of Kain Colter and never remotely considered going out to The Keg. For that matter, I didn’t even know that students published newspapers that other students would actually read. That’s because last year, I was at the University of Rochester playing Division III golf for the Yellowjackets (please spare me the embarrassment of looking up the numbers I put up last year). Like most other college freshmen, I was completely convinced that I would happily spend the next four years where I started.

The biggest turnaround of my freshman year didn’t happen on the golf course, although I regret playing crappy golf with the Rochester logo on my shirt. When I first entered college, I was utterly convinced that I would make a terrible engineer because of my high school grades in science (the stereotypical engineer doesn’t get a C in AP Chemistry).

However, after working in Rochester’s student biodiesel lab and taking classes in partial differential equations and microeconomics filled with engineers, I decided that my passion in life is the application of technical knowledge to issues in management and policy. So what if I got bad grades trying to pursue a double major in chemical engineering and economics? At least I’d be doing something that would get me up in the morning, even if I struggled through the workload.

There wasn’t one thing that drove me to transfer out of Rochester. I wasn’t thrilled about the food and the limited social life, but neither was anybody else, and those weren’t deal-breakers. The academics were outstanding, even if U.S. News & World Report and potential employers don’t fully acknowledge what Rochester students go through.

However, the one thing I really wanted and didn’t get at Rochester was a driven environment with students I could fully engage with. That’s not to say my peers weren’t passionate; they just cared about different things than I did. Rochester has an amazing music program and everybody seemed to have some kind of musical talent. A musical atmosphere wasn’t really for me, though, so I decided that I would apply to schools that more closely matched the things I wanted to study.

Admittedly, I always wanted to go to Penn because of the education that Wharton offers, so my first thought was to apply as an engineer and then try to get a dual degree from Wharton. However, after talking to a high school friend who’s enrolled in McCormick and making successive trips through Northwestern’s website, I came away with a positive impression. Besides being drawn in by NU’s outstanding chemical engineering and economics majors, I was also impressed by a multitude of certificate programs and minors. I felt like I could fit in on campus.

Fortunately, it’s not as if NU only offers technical majors. Unlike my previous school, I feel as if there’s something for everyone. Everybody is incredibly talented and hard working, but there remains a diversity of opinion and expression. While I was disheartened to see some of the especially nasty comments made to my fellow columnist during the affirmative action debate, the passion and variety of backgrounds that people brought to bear validated my decision to come to NU. I genuinely enjoy being part of this school, even though I’ve never been so sleep-deprived in my life.

This year, NU has 115 new transfers, including my fellow columnist Ryan Kearney, and we are all eager to complete what I call our “freshman-and-a-half” experience. We had the best Peer Advisers ever (sorry, freshmen PA’s) and many of us still connect to each other through our shared experience of having gone to a different university before coming to NU. On the other hand, we strive our hardest to jump right into life on campus. Each of us can find the niche we felt like we lacked at our previous school without feeling ostracized for not being here our freshman year.

If you have a younger sibling who’s thinking of applying to the University of Rochester, I’m more than happy to give a glowing recommendation to the school. Ultimately, it just wasn’t right for me, and I still remember the exuberance I felt when I got an acceptance email from Northwestern four months ago. While I’d love to wax on about how great it is to be a Wildcat, Prof. Notestein’s midterm beckons. It seems like I’ve already got one NU pastime down pat: complaining about how hard it is to get through engineering here. Just ask my other transfer friends.

Jan Jaro is a McCormick sophomore. He can be reached at janjaro2015@u.northwestern.edu. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, email a Letter to the Editor to forum@dailynorthwestern.com.