Neal - Xavier University - Class of 2018

Neal - Class of 2018
If you can, visit any college you're considering. You'd be surprised just how much a visit to campus will affect your outlook.

Starting out, I had just one college in mind—Michigan Tech. Not only were a bunch of my friends going there, it was renowned for computer science, and it had a hockey stadium and ski hill! Since I had higher stats than friends who went there, I thought my chances of getting in were good. I didn't see the need to apply anywhere else.

  • Hometown: Grosse Pt. Park, MI
  • High School: Public
  • GPA: 3.87 / 3.91 (weighted)
  • ACT: 28
  • Major: Computer science
  • Goal: Learn as much about writing code as possible

Freshman Year Update

The hardest part of starting college was finding people who shared my interests. I am an introverted nerd and stay to myself most of the time—much like the people I was searching for.

I soon realized I had to go to them. So, I took my Magic cards to the student center and played alone until people stopped by. That's how I met my best friend. Then I started a tabletop/role-playing game club and making friends was easy.

While my classes have been less difficult than I expected (some seem like reruns of AP classes), it's been hard to balance academics with the freedom of living on my own and my other activities. I'm on the fencing team, in the poetry club, volunteering, learning Japanese, and exploring 3D printing. There is so much more going on than just my classes!

Sophomore Year Update

I backed off on some of my extracurricular activities this year. I decided to quit fencing since I didn't really like the other people in it. Instead, I focused more on the growing games club. We gained almost 40 new members in our first few months, and it required more organization than before. I didn't stop everything though, and got two of my poems published in the school creative writing book. I also volunteered with a local after-school program, tutoring 4th and 5th graders in computer programming.

My biggest down was one of my software engineering courses. The lecturer was awful and I can wholeheartedly say I learned nothing. But the students organized and it was taken care of. Because of scheduling conflicts I had to stop taking Japanese as well. This summer, I'm doing an internship with a digital marketing company in Michigan, and next year I plan to spend a semester studying abroad.

Junior Year Update

Junior year was quite an adventure. The first semester was hectic with preparing for studying abroad, but I also took one of my favorite classes to date: Machine Organization and Assembly Language. It banished any doubts I had about my major. Second semester I studied abroad in Ireland, where I took mainly electives—Irish history, archaeology, and computer graphics—since many of the credits wouldn't transfer.

My year wasn't all roses, though. There were quite a few headaches, one of which was my inability to take a required class because it was offered only during the semester I was abroad. I also had to look into cheaper housing options. But I'm still relatively happy at Xavier. The professors are friendly and helpful. I had a successful internship to which I will be returning this summer. And I've solidified a great group of friends.

More than Michigan Tech

My parents, however, continued to bother me about applying to other colleges, even creating a vast spreadsheet comparing the different costs and rankings. So, I halfheartedly started applications to my parent's top choices: Clarkson University and University of Notre Dame. I knew little about Clarkson. And even though my brother went to Notre Dame, I had no interest in going there. For one, it was a religiously affiliated college, and I am not very religious.

When decisions trickled in, I was denied by Notre Dame and accepted by Clarkson. Best of all, I was accepted to Michigan Tech, so I thought I was done. But when the financial aid packages came in, the numbers didn't add up. I would need to take out an enormous loan to attend either school. I appealed for more aid, but was turned down. Now I didn't know what to do.

A cliff-hanger at Xavier

Then my parents reminded me about Xavier. The school had called several times, inviting me to apply. The only thing I knew about Xavier was that it was a Jesuit school, which to me only meant it was religious. My parents thought I should send my application anyway and see if they might offer more aid. So, I applied.

With just one week before the deposit deadline, my mom and I went to Xavier and met with my admissions counselor—who told me that they hadn't received my application, ACT score, or FAFSA! This news almost sent my mom to the hospital! After a few frantic phone calls home, my dad faxed the papers over while I went on the tour.

I thought Xavier's campus was beautiful. The students and faculty were friendly and approachable. Even though the school is in a large city (Cincinnati), the campus wasn't intimidating at all. And when I asked my tour guide how religion influenced the academic program, I learned that the college focuses more on community service than on studying biblical concepts. I found this reassuring.

After the tour, I stopped by the admissions office again, and my counselor told me I had been accepted! I was impressed that they processed my application that quickly. It made me feel like they really wanted me. They also came through with enough financial aid for me to attend. After everything I saw and experienced on the tour, my decision was easy.

My ups and downs

The highlight of my admissions experience was meeting a computer science professor at Clarkson. I walked in when he and a student were discussing a problem on a dry-erase board. The student was really excited about figuring out the solution—and he was leading the discussion as much as the professor was! I knew I wanted that same level of interaction with my professors.

Getting my financial aid offers was the lowest point. It was depressing to realize that I would have to go into more debt than I wanted to.

What I learned

My parents were by far my most helpful resource during the application process and gave me the best advice. If it weren't for them, I would never have applied to Xavier. I only wish I had listened to them and applied to a few more colleges so I wouldn't have felt so stuck when I found out my financial aid was insufficient.

The money factor

Xavier's financial aid package covers about two thirds of the overall cost. I will cover the rest with loans, scholarships, and earnings from summer employment.

My advice

If you can, visit any college you are considering. You'd be surprised just how much a visit to campus will affect your outlook. And, listen to your parents—especially if they have applied to college themselves. Even if they haven't, they know you better than you think they do.