It was the middle of November during my junior year at Frederick High School, Frederick, Maryland, when I was confronted with the stressful question and decision that would impact the rest of my life: where will I go to college? I had known many students in the classes above me who left the friendly halls of Frederick High School to go to colleges, large and small, across the country. Surely they must have faced and solved this same question, which remained a perplexing riddle for me. When I heard the word “college” I immediately thought of schools like the University of Maryland with its thirty thousand plus students. Thirty thousand people! For me this number was a small town rather than a place where one would receive an education.
When you walked the halls of Frederick High you got a sense of home. In every hallway a familiar face would pop up and greet you with a comical “hey what’s up” or complimentary “good game last night” or caring “how’s it going” or even a simple nice to see you smile. All of which would serve to brighten one’s mood and spirit and foster that positive attitude which is essential for academic success. This was the kind of feeling I wanted for the rest of my educational journey. So, the question of where to go to college was very hard to answer. Could there be a school that would have that familiar Frederick High feeling?
The following spring my college search led me to McDaniel College, a small liberal arts school in Westminster, Maryland. On a beautiful spring morning, I walked across the beautifully landscaped campus and instantly fell in love with its intimacy. It was the same sense of hominess I had been accustom to at Frederick High. My first stop on the campus tour was a visit to a freshman English class. I was shocked to find that there were only fifteen students in the class, which my tour guide assured me was the normal class size at McDaniel. This was significant because it would enable me to develop a strong student relationship with my instructors. This aspect of McDaniel College also engendered that Frederick High feeling I was looking for.
When lunchtime came, we visited Englar dining hall, which was about the size of the Frederick High cafeteria. However, there the similarity ended. Englar offered the students a wide selection of menu and food options. Students could request and order personal salads, sandwiches, and even pasta. This was mind blowing! I stood in line behind some students while they placed their order and the dining hall worker asked each of them, “Do you want the regular?” This occurred time after time with the people in line. The dining hall staff knew the particular preferences of the students, further demonstrating to me the overall degree which the entire McDaniel community had for its students’ well being. This too exemplified the Frederick High feeling I was seeking in my college choice.
I graduated from Frederick High School in May, 2014, and was off to McDaniel College in the fall. After my visit I knew right away that the small liberal arts school with its caring environment would be a perfect home for me for the next four years. There, I’d earn my college degree. I had to admit I was terrified to leave home and start this new chapter in my life. But in my heart, I knew that McDaniel would help me through the many challenges that freshman faced each day.
Today, I am a junior pursuing a degree in Communications and Elementary Education. I am also on the honor role and part of Greek life on campus. McDaniel College is one of the top ten schools that is said to change lives according to Colleges That Change Lives. The nonprofit organization further added, “This is a community of nice, earnest, unassuming, quietly self-assured teenagers who realize they are getting a first-rate education and who regard their teachers as their friends and mentors.” Each of these qualities I can personally attest to. I know that McDaniel College is just one many small liberal arts schools. But colleges in this mold create for its students the nurturing environment so essential for success just like the one and only Frederick High School.