Marisa - University of Alabama - Class of 2019
student photo

At first, I was indifferent about U-Alabama. But when I toured the campus as an accepted student, I knew it was the right choice for me.

At the beginning of my college search I wanted to study anthropology far from home, in New York. But by senior year, everything had changed. I had switched my major to piano performance and was applying mostly to colleges in the south.

Hometown: Birmingham, AL

High School: Public

GPA: 4.0/4.1 (weighted)

SAT: 1530

Major: Piano performance

Goal: Graduate in four years and pursue a minor in French

College

Status

University of AlabamaAttending
Auburn UniversityAccepted
Belmont UniversityAccepted
St. John's UniversityAccepted
University of DallasAccepted
University of GeorgiaWaitlisted
University of Alabama at BirminghamAccepted

From artifacts to arpeggios

Half the schools on my list were universities I originally picked for anthropology. The others either contacted me or sent me free applications. After I decided to major in piano performance, I focused on the two schools on my list with the best music schools: Belmont University and University of Alabama. I not only had to be accepted to their undergraduate programs, but I also had to apply to their music departments and audition.

I had visited Belmont and really liked how welcoming it was to musicians and artists. I also thought living in Nashville would be a great experience. I was indifferent about attending University of Alabama. My parents went there and I had been to the campus many times. While its music department was excellent, it just seemed like a big party school, and it felt a little too close to home.

The auditions open my eyes

But I learned more about each school at my auditions. When I auditioned at Belmont, there were 500 other students auditioning the same day. We weren't told our audition times until we got there, and we all had to sit in an auditorium waiting for our turn. I had to wait for three hours, so I became extremely nervous. The environment felt stressful and competitive. I didn't feel comfortable playing for the professors, and I didn't perform my best. Because I had such negative feelings about my audition, now I had negative feelings about Belmont's music school. I had liked the school so much, but now I felt disappointed and discouraged.

So I toured U-Alabama again. This time, I saw the campus as an accepted student, and I liked it so much more! The students and faculty were enthusiastic about the university, everyone I met was friendly, and I just really liked the feel of the campus. When I auditioned at the music school a few weeks later, it was a completely different experience than what I had at Belmont. The audition was relaxed and organized. I met with a professor before my audition and he told me all about the music department. He was so nice, and I was impressed with everything I learned. Because I wasn't as nervous, I did well on the audition.

When I got my acceptance letter from U-Alabama's music school, I immediately sent in my deposit without waiting to hear back from Belmont. It was obvious—the University of Alabama was the right choice for me.

My ups and downs

I was offered admission to everywhere I applied but University of Georgia, and I received scholarships from St. Johns and U-Dallas. It was exciting to have so many options—but at the same time, it added to my indecision. I was tempted to go to St. Johns for a while because it was in New York. But after thinking about it, I had to admit that going all the way to New York after high school would be a big jump for me, and it would be nice to be closer to the benefits of home. New York might be a good place to go to graduate school.

What I learned

I was blinded by my desire to attend college far from home—and almost overlooked the dream school in my own backyard. I learned to keep an open mind about things. I also wanted to be independent and apply to colleges by myself, but my parents were the ones who helped me the most. I would not have gone this far without them!

The money factor

My parents are paying for my tuition and expenses.

My advice

Don't be afraid to chase your dream college, but remember that your best choice could be standing right next to you. Let your parents, teachers, and college counselors help you because that is what they are there for.