Thursday, April 17, 2008

Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name...

What was it that T.S. Elliot said about “the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time?”

It was exactly one year ago this week that I received the dissapointing news from the Boston school that put my seminary plans on hold for a year. After stomping my feet and pouting because I didn’t get the scholarship that I was so sure I was going to get, I decided to take my business elsewhere and began looking longingly at a school in NYC. I deferred my admission to Boston…and then surprise, surprise, one of their scholarship students got shipped off to Iraq and the money earmarked for him landed in my lap. But alas, my loving gaze had already shifted to NYC, and Boston was moved into the “maybe, but only if I don’t get a scholarship from NY” column. With Boston set as my safety school, I tossed both balls in the air and decided to wait until the spring of ’08 to see where they’d fall.

Well, I’m happy to say that they’ve finally fallen…
….and they didn’t land where I expected them to.
And all I have to say is: “Thank God for that!”

I’m going to Boston!

I knew from the start that anything short of a full scholarship to NYC would have me packing my bags to Boston. Between tuition, housing, food, transportation and books, the price tag for NY hovers around $98,000 for their three-year M.Div program. That may be doable for someone on the path to academia and professorship (and the tenure/salary that goes along with it), but at that price those of us who’ll be cashing the paycheck of a clergy person will most likely be paying off student loans until the day we die.

But even if NY did come through with a full scholarship I didn’t want my choice of school to be based solely on money.
So, being my usual analytical/neurotic self, before I received my admissions letter from NY I sat down and made a Pros and Cons list for both schools - on an Excel spreadsheet complete with multi-colored fonts and shadings - and in the end I concluded that Boston is really where I want to go.
Just to be sure, I arranged to take a second look at the Boston school and after taking a trip up there two weeks ago I feel confident that I’ve made the right choice.

The curriculum has a good balance between the practical and the theoretical, the new chapel is beautiful (and now has the daily worship services that drew me towards NY), the classrooms have been renovated and updated, and the students that I met had nothing but good things to say about the quality of the professors and the closeness of the community.

But in the end there were two areas in particular that drew me towards Boston and away from NY:
The campus, and the people.

The campus: As much as I loved the beautiful gothic architecture of the NYC school and the fact that it’s closer location would make it easier to come home every weekend, I had to admit to myself that I’m just not an urban kind of girl.
I commuted to NYC from Long Island when I went to Audio Engineering school in my twenties, and again when I secured an internship after I graduated. But as exciting as the city was I needed to leave it behind every night. I needed the greener, wider open spaces of suburbia. And now that I’m living in more rural western CT I need space and greenery even more.
I need trees, the sound of birds during the day and crickets and peepers at night, a peaceful space to study and recharge. The school just outside of Boston has all that, the one in the center of NYC does not.

The people: The students I talked to at the Boston school seemed happier and more energized, and had fewer negative things to say about their experience at their school.
The people in admissions were much friendlier and seemed to actually care whether I chose to go to their school or not. Something as small as receiving a personable email from Boston asking me if I’d like to visit again, while NY remained either silent or provided me with stock answers to questions that did not address my unique situation.
Unlike NY, the people in the admissions department at Boston remembered me from when I visited and thus treated me as an individual; I wasn’t just a name on an application….and that made all the difference.

I finally heard from NY last week and while I was accepted into the M.Div program, I did not get a full tuition scholarship. I received a half-tuition grant, which is still a good amount of money, but it would leave too much of a balance to be covered by student loans.
But in the end it didn’t matter, Boston is where I want to be.

A*ndover N*ewton here I come!


Michelle said...

Congratulations on finally making the decision! I have been in a similar search lately and felt the same about the deciding factor. The community was very important to me. I feel like the place that I chose was perfect for me and my family at this point in our lives. I wish I could say that I was getting a full scholarship like you, but I'll be happy with the 50-75% that I end up with. Best wishes to you in your journey.

Cecilia said...

MoCat, I am so happy for you. The decision to go to seminary and the actual materialization of those plans was one of the most exciting, rewarding things I have ever done. I am so glad you feel a good fit with the Boston school... it's so important to be in the right kind of environment for your spirit.

Blessings and joy to you!

Pax, C.