To the high school student looking at colleges: I urge you to explore ALL your options. Trust me on this. I didn't think I would have ended up at a college half the size of my high school if my parents hadn't urged me to look at every single option. And, I mean everything from different sized schools to schools that offered different programs. I looked at schools that were D1 and I had no hope of playing a sport at to NAIA schools that I had no idea existed.

I was an early bird. My first visit was in the beginning of March in my Junior year of high school. I had been to Illinois State University, my dad's Alma mater. I had to visit. I lived in a college town with a D2 school. But I wanted to get away. I needed to have that "college experience." And oh man, have I found that. So flashback to four years ago in my junior year of high school. My mom comes home from work, "J, I found another school for you to visit. One of my colleagues at work suggested it. She's an alumni from the school." I bet you can tell where this is going. She proceeds to tell me that the school has just under 1,000 students and that it was in a small town much like the one we lived in. I couldn't believe it. The school had less than half of the students I had in my high school. I couldn't imagine it. I didn't want to go.

Move forward two weeks and I'm still complaining about visiting the school. I still couldn't believe it. The trip was two hours and 15 minutes and I think I complained the whole way there. So we get to the school and I think, "OK, this school looks alright." We get through orientation and they start giving us tours. Throughout the day they wove our slogan into everything we did, 'Do Something Different." They told us about this weird semester schedule we take classes in. It's called a 12/3 week. We take a normal course load in our 12 week just like a normal 15 week semester but, during the three week, we get to take one course for three weeks. During those three weeks we can choose to take a course that stays on campus or a course that travels. Now of course the travel courses cost money, but let me tell you that they are well worth it if you can afford it. As the day wore on, my face lit up more and more. I'm sure if you talk to my parents they could tell you that they knew well before I did that I would end up at a small school in Canton, Missouri called Culver-Stockton College. I was excited, I could continuing golfing, study something I was passionate about and take advantage of traveling abroad while at school. Traveling has and will always be what I am passionate about. So that is what stuck out to me and ultimately became the reason that I chose to go to a school in a small town.

Come back to today. I sit here and reflect on the three amazing years that I have had at this school. By the time I graduate a year from now, I will have been to four different countries, and a city in the U.S that I have never been to before. I played golf for two years and met friends that will last a life time. I'm in a sorority, something I swore I would never do. I've spent time on Student Government, the Mock Trial Team, and I'm even in a professional fraternity. I never once imagined this is what my life would be like in college. But I'm happy and content and know that these experiences and memories will last me a life time. They are ones I will never forget about. I have been to places that my parents will never get to experience. And all because of a small school in small town USA.