There came a time in my high school senior year when I had to make a decision that might profoundly change the rest of my life—choosing which college to attend. I’m among few students who actually made that decision twice!
After spending a year at a large public university in my home state of California, I pushed the “redo” button and ended up at Davidson College. Not many people transfer, and why should they? Speaking from experience, it’s a pain. It involved moving 2,000 miles from home, enduring the most rain and humidity I’ve ever seen, and watching my GPA plummet under Davidson’s demanding professors.
Did I make the right choice?
Well, I undoubtedly needed to go to a small liberal arts school instead of a large university. I was an admittedly immature student, and needed smaller, more intimate classes. I needed to be pushed and challenged, and I needed to know that my professors cared about my education.
But there are numerous small colleges that extoll those qualities.
I must confess finally that I chose Davidson on a whim. I only ever heard of Davidson from a college guidebook. But I was accepted here, and to another liberal arts college in Maine. I chose Davidson sight unseen primarily for convenience. Commuting from Los Angeles to Charlotte is easier than Los Angeles to Maine, and I was not excited about Maine’s frigid winters.
The wisdom of my decision to attend Davidson inevitably rests on the purpose of a liberal arts education. Others may have different opinions, but I now understand what it has meant to me. The point is to search for and live a good, noble, and free life. A liberal education sharpens and develops the highest human faculties. There is no inherent monetary reward, nor promise of happiness. The pursuit of the liberal arts is a search for goodness, and this search is both ennobling and liberating. We learn about ourselves and humanity.
As I write this in early spring, the countdown to commencement has begun. The closer I get to that date, the more I find myself asking questions about life I never previously considered. I am much more inquisitive and curious than I was three years ago, and I feel more regret. Regret at not having taken certain classes, and regret at not taking academics more seriously before I got here. I recognize a growing yearning—a painful hunger—for more. This is the greatest gift to me from my alma mater.
Did I make the right choice? A friend once told me that the difference between Davidson and another liberal arts college was that Davidson has a soul. I don’t know that her comment is infallibly true, but I can say that I did find my soul here, and that’s what matters. On May 20, 2012, I will leave Davidson with a diploma—but infinitely more importantly, I will leave with an education.