Making The Loyola Investment

As you walk around campus in this nippy February weather, you’ll notice here and there signs of spring popping up from the earth. Along with the new blooms follow a new crop of students, coming in droves to tour the school and attend information sessions with their families. Pretty soon the quad and bridge will be clogged with newcomers on Saturdays, and you just might get asked by a lost parent where to find Boulder.

Sometimes, if you’re really lucky (and I’m being serious, this is pretty cool), you’ll be asked what you like the most, what you don’t like, and the most personal question, why Loyola at all? What was the deciding factor? What was in the balance?

For those of you who have been with me since the beginning, you already know some of the answers. But not all!

To give you an idea of where I was by this time senior year of high school, I had heard back from a few schools, was still waiting on others, but had more or less narrowed it down to Loyola, Fordham, and Rutgers.

After taking the tour and seeing the freakishly large campus of my state university (and learning I’d have to take a bus to get to classes), I crossed out Rutgers from my list. I had already visited Fordham before I applied, but after I went to the accepted students day, I just wasn’t feeling it. I loved the programs they offered: their History, Women’s Studies and Irish Studies departments were very strong and they, too, had core requirements. I loved how it was in the city with the world at my fingertips. It was tied with Loyola, until I got their financial aid letter.

Suddenly I was faced with two schools I wasn’t very keen on and and third I had visited multiple times, but hadn’t had that “This is it” feeling which everyone talks about.

Don’t get me wrong, Loyola was on my Top of the Top List from the first time I took a tour! I really liked the campus, the students were nice, the department representatives I met were so friendly and open to questions, and the emphasis on service and core classes drew me in tenfold. But between the first time I visited to merely consider it and the second time for my interview, I still hadn’t been able to say “I can see myself here.”

February passed, and then some of March, while I watched my friends make their deposits to their dream schools. Then one bleak and rainy day (I’m not kidding, it was downpouring on the walk from my bus stop), I received a letter from Loyola saying I’d been awarded a merit based scholarship, which added a new factor to my interest in the school.

I attended the accepted students day in April, which included a breakfast for scholarship and honors program students, along with the crazy amount of activities to keep you busy. And that’s when something changed. There was no Eureka moment, no fairy chanting Abracadabra over my head to result in a poof of inspiration.

It was a gradual acceptance.

As the day wore on, I saw more that I liked, I heard more challenging and simultaneously appealing ideas, and I met more people I saw as like-minded peers. There was a sense of community I hadn’t felt at other schools, a deep grounding in the Jesuit teaching of core values. There were so many ways I could get involved on and off campus, I just had to know where to look. Even the dorms and living-learning communities were calling to me (give me a kitchen and I’m happy). I found myself being able to say that I could truly see myself as a Loyola Greyhound.

And that was more or less it. By the end of the day I had submitted my deposit and triumphantly called my sister to tell her the news. But there was a moment during that afternoon that’s always stuck in my memory and is one of my biggest motivators to do well.

My parents and I stood outside Boulder and figured out the financial difference between Loyola and Rutgers (I may have taken it off my list, but that didn’t mean it was off my parents’). Loyola was a stretch, even with financial aid and the scholarship. But my dad put it into these terms, “This isn’t just a monetary investment. It’s an investment in you.” And honestly, it’s an investment in Loyola.

Getting It

“I just have five more gen ed classes and the next three years will be all neuroscience and chemistry.”
“What!?!?! Five? Only five? I have like, I don’t know, fifteen!!!”
“Hahahahahaaaa, sucks for you.”

That is the rough summary of a conversation between me and one of my best friends last year. We had been talking about graduation requirements while enjoying the shade of a nearby sidewalk cafe on a hot summer afternoon.

To be honest, my reaction to “Sucks for you” was “Mmmm” as I sipped my drink. Because if you think about it, wouldn’t you rather be doing what you love sooner, instead of having to balance core (gen ed) classes with your major/minor requirements? As I reached for a french fry from the basket between us, I tried to remember when a core class at Loyola turned out to be something I “loved” without knowing it.

Maybe I had missed something, a discussion in Theology that really got me to think about a global issue, a poem in English that inspired me to write one of my own, a lesson in CompSci that made me appreciate the complexity of the web*. At the time, I couldn’t come up with anything. Don’t get me wrong, I liked those classes, loved them even, but nothing stood out that made the core at Loyola “essential” to my understanding of “the bigger picture.”

And then last semester happened.

I don’t know if it was the combination of classes, the professors, or just the content, but suddenly everything started to click. Every week I had a Eureka moment of “Oh my God! We just talked about this author in my other class! And he relates to both classes! Ah!”

Here’s a less vague example: My first core History class started with the Renaissance, as did my Art History class. Throughout the semester we’d be covering the same time periods, but focus on different aspects of society and I was able to see how politics and cultural trends directly affected the art world, in every era. My Art History class covered the 1970s feminist contributions which were later discussed in my Life Drawing class because the representation of the female nude is a huge point of contention. That Life Drawing class also had assigned readings relating to philosophy and the concept of what makes us truly human which my Philosophy professor ensured we discussed when we read Plato’s Timaeus. Those connections made those classes worthwhile. I was excited for whatever came next, knowing that it might relate to a different class.

You don’t get that in high school, and you definitely don’t get that in all colleges. There’s a lot of early specialization in state schools, and if there is a core, you don’t have to take 2  classes of Theology, Philosophy, English, History, and Social Science, courses which teach you to think in totally unexpected and different ways.

Unexpected. That’s the best way to describe it, I think. We’re reading Frankenstein right now in my Lit class and Rousseau in my Philosophy class. Suddenly the debate about human nature and man’s “natural state” takes on a whole new meaning. I just learned about comparative cost in my Microecon class and boy does that change my rate of procrastination!

Maybe it’s pure luck that my classes are working out this way. Maybe my attitude has changed from last year and I view classes differently now. Maybe I’m just paying more attention.

No matter why this change has occurred, what’s important is that it has. Last year I was frustrated at not seeing how my classes tied into each other. I was forcing that connection the Loyola brochures advertise as an advantage of the core. This year I see, hear, and understand those connections. I finally get it. And it’s beautiful.

*For the record, since this chat with my friend, I have realized all of those possibilities are true.