“What Made You Choose Rochester?”


Tree of Life in Genesee Valley Park


“Why are you going there?”

In my hometown of Akron, Ohio, many high school graduates attend college locally at one of the nearby state schools. Others migrate to the outskirts of the state but remain comfortably and securely within Ohio, and a small few disperse across the country.

In that culture, I was kind of an anomaly in my family’s, friends’, and neighbors’ eyes for choosing to attend Rochester. Since April of my senior year when I made my decision, I’ve faced the question, “Why did you choose Rochester?” from a new, politely bewildered acquaintance every time I’m home.

The question always bothers me a bit; I feel fulfilled and satisfied at Rochester, justified in my decision, and thus, on some level, insulted when others don’t as readily see the purpose of studying here. I usually just say, “I was attracted to the open curriculum and overall strength of the academics,” assuming that the full story isn’t desired or warranted. But there certainly were more factors at play in my decision than a blanket statement about academics.

A decision four years in the making

The full story of why I chose Rochester begins in October 2010. My high school cross country team traveled to Rochester to compete in the McQuaid Jesuit Invitational at the beautiful Genesee Valley Park. The park, near campus and situated along the Genesee River, enthralled me with its watery borders, sprawling meadows, fall foliage, and open skies.

Each fall, we returned to the park to compete in the invitational, and by October 2012, as a high school junior starting to consider collegs, I suddenly took real notice of the renowned, private university right next door to the park. I resolved to schedule a campus visit.

In late July 2013, I officially visited campus for a tour and admissions interview. I fell in love with the traditional, collegiate architecture and atmosphere, and gained invaluable insight through a conversation with one of the assistant directors in Admissions. As a result, I labored thoughtfully over my application and submitted it.

Between my admissions interview and application, I was invited in February 2014 to attend a scholarship event. In March 2014, I attended a three-day event culminating in an interview for the Renaissance & Global Scholarship. I stayed overnight with a current student and got a comprehensive Rochester experience through the combination of program events and witnessing authentic, firsthand accounts of student life. Inspired and invigorated by the ambition and wide range of interests in both the current and prospective students I met, my college decision solidified: I knew I belonged at Rochester.

In April 2014, I enrolled as a member of the Class of 2018. Equally relieved to be done with the application process and eager to embark on my college career, I realized that the process of my decision had entirely been guided by my personal engagement with Rochester. Between visiting and interviewing twice, I was able to understand Rochester as a living, thriving center of diverse interests, learning, endeavors, and friendships.

Really get to know your school

Without these experiences, I still would have appreciated Rochester as a top-ranked research institution that was compatible academically with my constantly evolving interests. However, just reading these facts on a website would not have provided the confidence and fulfillment that personal engagement did.

Despite the confusion I sometimes face at home, my three semesters at Rochester so far have proven that there’s a place for curious, liberal arts students from the Midwest here. In fact, there truly is a place for all backgrounds and interests at a school as unique and energetic as Rochester. I encourage personal engagement with any potential college, but especially at Rochester. The wide range of possibilities for prospective students’  engagement, such as interviews and special events, provide many opportunities to come to know the school.

Enjoy and savor the unfolding of your own journey to a college decision! No matter where you enroll, you will create your own story of choice.

About the author

Natalie Ziegler

Hello! I'm a member of the Class of 2018, and I study anthropology and comparative literature. Within my comparative literature, I study fiction and creative writing, as well as gender studies. I spend most of my time on campus studying in the beautiful Rush Rhees Library, but I can also be found at various Students' Association Government functions, at work in the gym or the Department of Rare Books, cohosting an online radio show for WRUR The Sting, or relaxing with friends. I enjoy exploring Rochester's neighborhoods and its downtown, and I love newspapers, biking, and reading.


Leave a comment
  • Rochester has so much to offer. I grew up in Rochester but didn’t realize how much it had to offer me until I left. You can take almost any kind of day trip you want within a 1 hour radius. White water rafting? Head down to Letchworth. Want to spend some money at the casino, make a trip to seneca. Are you a foodie? There’s so many authentic restaurants in the city. You made the right choice by coming here! 🙂

  • You do well relating with personal experiences most can share. Having left my family in the metropolitan area of Detroit and choosing to live in “a small town atmosphere of Ohio”…” slow Stow”, I have had similar experiences.
    The chemistry of attraction which pulls us to make choices is another of the mysteries of life to behold. Many do not have the internal fortitude to leave their comfort zone, create emotional ties, lack the spirit of adventure or are just indifferent. I did a study in grad school of personality types and tendencies to choose careers…kinda like why does one play chess and another hockey. There is a concept in studying organizational behavior which divided personalities and their characteristics into two general categories: cosmopolitan or locals. Your broad horizon with a tendency to take risks and your willingness to “march to your own drum” …”don’t complain; don’t explain’…definetly indicate a high probability you will experience self-actualization in the cosmopolitan mode.
    Couple more years and you will be faced with another decision…where after Rochester?
    Hang on …it looks like a fun ride!!!

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