Going to a big school may not be for everyone, but for me, it’s everything. For some, going to an SEC school is do or die. For others, ivy league prestige is the only way to go, and some know from a young age that a smaller school-feel is for them. Unfortunately for me, I had no freaking clue. That is, until I walked onto Florida State University’s campus.
Now, let me give you a little background info to set the stage:
I’m a small town girl born and raised just outside of Memphis, Tennessee. I was raised to love football, hate the north, and to hold very strong although sometimes completely unfounded opinions about anything and everything. I knew what I wanted to get from a college experience and where my life was going, without really knowing how to get there. I knew I was going to go to a school in the South that had a big-school feel with a big time love for sports, and an exceptional program for my intended major, Interior Design. My direction became crystal clear when I stepped foot on Florida State University’s campus and found my home during my junior year of high school, and since then I’ve never looked back. Let me tell you why.
FSU was the final stop on my college road trip that consisted of a whopping 4 schools. I had high hopes, because several friends of mine had also visited and applied. For reasons I didn’t even know yet, I knew FSU was where I wanted to be. Aside from all the sappy Goldilocks “just right” mumbo-jumbo that I could attempt to elaborate on, there are 5 main reasons that I loved and STILL love my school.
1. Tallahassee, Florida is the quintessential college town.
Growing up in a place that’s biggest identifier is “basically Memphis” didn’t hold much excitement. While there is a large university in Memphis, it is in no way a college town. Memphis is landlocked, the only nightlife and activities were for 21+ (no really) and even the students of the university have to leave campus to get to the football stadium. For fun, people would stay in and play card games, or go to a park, or GO LITERALLY ANYWHERE ELSE. It was a fantastic place to grow up, but it held very little opportunity for the growing I’d need to do as a college-aged woman.
Tallahassee, though, is the quintessential college town. There are bars galore, a huge sports scene (SEC can sit down), lots of great eats, and its an hour away from some pretty great beaches and outdoor activities. It offers everything my sheltered heart could have dreamed up and then some, at the expense of my somewhat naive and oh so sugary sweet southern belle demeanor – sorry mom.
2. It is far enough away from home to give me the change in scenery I so desired, and close enough to make for a pretty decent mid-semester mind-clearing road trip.
So, when I got the opportunity to leave home for school, I decided to only consider colleges OUTSIDE of a 3 to 4 hour radius of Memphis. Florida State sits right at 8 hours away from home, which was perfect. It is far enough away to give me the change in scenery I so desired, and close enough to make for a pretty decent mid-semester mind-clearing road trip. More importantly, it was far enough away from home to force me into this whole “adulting” thing. 8 hours isn’t terrible, but it’s far enough to necessitate a little self-sufficiency and force me to gain the independence that everyone thinks they have beginning at age thirteen.
And in case you doubt this whole “adulting” transformation – just from living in a dorm I learned how to cook something other than microwaveable mac and cheese (the velvet kind, of course) and that no amount of fabric softener can save your favorite leggings from the shitty dorm laundry machines. Now that I’m in an apartment I’m a responsible pet owner, I feed myself 3 meals a day, and I even have a spare set of sheets – if you’ve ever laid down in a freshly made bed that you did yourself (wow chores!!!) you know this is the height of luxury.
3. One of the more important aspects of my decision to go to Florida State was because of the prestige and credibility of their Interior Architecture and Design program.
FSU’s IA+D program has been ranked as the #1 Most Admired program of its kind in multiple publications, and is one of a few schools to have a CIDA accredited undergraduate curriculum in this major. FSU knows that the design field is incredibly hard to break into and even harder to stay afloat in, and because of that their program is incredibly selective, with only 40 students being accepted per year. Because of the highly competitive and economically-conditional nature of Interior Design, it is crucial to know that I am getting the best education available to me to prepare me for this fast-paced industry. I take comfort and pride in this, because I know that being selected proves that I am a capable and competent competitor in my future field.
4. Tallahassee overall is a smaller, older city, with a great mix of cultures and a spread out small-community feel that completely overpowers the capital city vibes.
Although I desperately wanted to be anywhere but home for college, the diversity of Memphis and my high school continues to be something that I recognize and value about FSU and Tallahassee as a whole. Coming from an IB (International Baccalaureate) high school program, I am used to being in smaller-sized classes with people from a variety of cultural backgrounds. At FSU, the average class size has 25 -40 students, and nearly half of the demographic are not caucasian. Tallahassee overall is a smaller, older city, with a great mix of cultures and a spread out small-community feel that completely overpowers the capital city vibes. The diverse atmosphere is valuable to my growth as a young adult and is also comforting, because it feels a lot like home.
5. Finally, I knew I would have a home in FSU not only because of the familiar atmosphere or the friendly people, or the opportunities for general college girl mistake-making, but because of the thriving Greek life that would give me a true home away from home.
Greek life is not a crucial part of everyone’s college experience. In fact, Greek life makes up less than 20% of FSU’s population, and that includes organizations outside of the PanHellenic and IFC counsels. FSU has 17 PanHellenic sororities, so I knew that when I went through recruitment, I had no doubt that I would end up in the one that is truly meant for me. SPOILER ALERT: I did, and I couldn’t be happier. Joining a sorority made my transition from a small suburb to a 40,000 student university immeasurably easier, because I joined a family that is a mere fraction of that, and had them to help me along the way. I have never felt alone, and there hasn’t been a second where I haven’t been thankful to be part of my sisterhood and the amazing Greek community at FSU as a whole.
Besides, where else would I get the abundance of cute pics to keep the family updated with on Facebook?
So, if you’re not already convinced to transfer to FSU right tf now or to apply if you’re still looking at colleges, you might just be crazy. Not everyone goes into their college search with clarity. Some won’t get it until going on a road trip, some were born destined for a certain school, and some are just hoping for divine intervention. My suggestion to you is to figure out what it is that you NEED in a university, not just what you want. For me, that was independence, an above average education, and a sense of “home.” At Florida State, I can be my southern, hard-headed, fun-loving self. Now get out there and find where you can be you, and if it’s not FSU, you’re just plain wrong.