A surprise welcome to college

WHEN IOWA STATE University sent me a breaking news alert in an email, I thought it was another college rejecting my application.

I clicked on the link anyway.

What filled the screen was video of a professional news anchor announcing that a new student was accepted at Iowa State. Then, through video magic, I saw my name displayed: “Congratulations, Daniela Garcia. You are a Cyclone.”

I got in! And that personal touch of wel­coming me into the community made me feel an instant connection to the campus.

I was surprised because, of the 19 colleges and universities I applied to my senior year, I hadn’t even considered ISU until my mom made me fill out the application. Through this experience, I have learned that being open to trying new things can provide some of the biggest surprises and, in the end, can be the most rewarding.

When I began my college search, Iowa State University was last on my list. I was too focused on the name of a college—I thought what mattered was the campuses’ prestige.

Another one of my reasons was the university’s seemingly undesirable location. Going into my senior year at Edina High School, my top college prospects were the ones closest to home. My mind was set. I thought ISU was too far away from my sweet hometown of the Twin Cities. I am a city girl, and Iowa is a farm state with what I imagined was not much to do, and that scared me. I was also misguided by frivo­lous details such as campus food, parking availability and size.

Then, I realized what really mattered. The most important factor to me was the financial and academic support my family and I would be provided, which was substantially more at ISU than what other universities offered. I also appreciated the time some colleges spent on crafting personal messages, like the breaking news alert I received.

The big “aha” moment for me was when I realized many of the schools I applied to did not even follow up with me. There were no thank-yous, which seemed like the minimum. Other schools thanked me for applying and then I never heard back from them again. Iowa State went above and beyond to make me feel welcomed and showed me they cared.

When I experienced their warm greeting and saw all the opportunities they were giving me, I knew where I belonged. Name recognition among my friends and family didn’t matter anymore.

I now have some breaking news of my own: I will soon be an Iowa State Cyclone.