We write a lot about National Signing Day for athletes here, and for good reason. Recruiting is the lifeblood of an athletic program, and replenishing that talent is what ensures the team will remain excellent. Today is a different, and more important signing day though, as thousands of students across the country are picking what school they will attend next year. I didn't pick Ohio State on my signing day, but I ended up there eventually. And I'm really glad that I did.
High school Matt Brown applied to Ohio State and got accepted, but I wasn't seriously entertaining the idea of going there. I grew up in nearby Licking County, and didn't love the idea of going to a school that was so close to home. The fact that Ohio State was five times the size of my entire hometown didn't help matters, and once the university accidentally mailed an honors application to a Matt Brown living in a different state, I crossed them off my proverbial list. Had Twitter been around in 2005, I probably would have even tweeted me crossing them off my "Top 5" or something, because I was the worst.
I was deciding between Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, and American University, in Washington D.C. I sent in a dorm deposit to Case, but at the very last possible second, I flipped to American. As a 17 year old, my dream was to go to college in D.C, study political science, and become a world saving champion of social justice. I enjoyed reading POLITICO. Just typing this stuff makes me want to go back in time and smack this kid, but making mistakes is part of what being a teenager is all about, I guess.
My first year at American went pretty well, but then the wheels started to fall off. I wanted to go on a two-year LDS mission, and AU wouldn't hold my scholarship, making the school unaffordable. I badly injured my knees, and would need to take time off for physical therapy, and my mom became very sick. Perhaps most importantly, I realized that going to a college where everybody watched West Wing reruns instead of college football on Saturdays, and used their internship badges to pick up women is actually a terrible idea. I needed a college that was going to be flexible, affordable, and close to home, while still being a great school. Suddenly, Ohio State looked a lot better.
After a few quarters at Ohio State-Newark to save money while fixing my legs, I moved to Columbus. I wasn't happy about it at first, but I grew to love that place, and I wouldn't be where I am without it.
Going to a school with roughly a gazillion people isn't for everybody, and it was hard at first, but it also meant there were a ton of opportunities available. I played in a steel drum band. I wrote some pretty terrible columns for The Lantern. I got to go back to D.C on a Glenn School fellowship. I helped build a fraternity, and as a result, got to ring the ol' Victory Bell at Ohio Stadium. I think I might have taken a few classes in there, between all of the internships, clubs, and pickup basketball games as well.
The academic experience I had at Ohio State was solid, but it was the stuff I picked up outside the classroom that has continued to benefit me. A huge school like provided a ton of internship opportunities, which allowed me to write for Columbus Monthly, the Newark Advocate and others, even though I never got a chance to join the Lantern staff. Without those, I don't have this job. A huge school required me to become independent and advocate for myself. It's given me access to an enormous alumni network that helped me get my first job with Teach for America, and multiple positions since. It gave me a chance to develop leadership skills, friendships and new hobbies.
Also, it had a Cane's. Two of them, if you count the one on Olentangy River Road.
I think I could have gone to college lots of other places and still had a positive experience, but it's difficult to imagine being where I am today without Ohio State. The older I get, the more I think I appreciate the value of those networks, and having a piece of a paper from a place that everybody has heard of and respects. I'm certainly in a better place now than I would be if I had stayed at AU. I don't think we're starting a Patriot League blog in the near future.
What about you? Why did you pick Ohio State, or wherever you went?
For more information about College Signing Day and Reach Higher, click here.