Jun 29, 2017



​Why I picked U.Va.

Spoiler: hot men were a factor


Ellie Hanson

Over the past year it seems everyone has been asking me why I chose to attend this University. And while I’ve always found it a bit difficult to respond, it’s a fair question, and I’m going to try and articulate my answer now. My apologies to all those people who I gave watery answers to, like, “I toured the University and liked it,” or, “It had everything I was looking for.” Because while those things are true, the question still stands —why would a California girl leave sunshine and beaches for a small town with less-than-stellar football?

Let me start by setting the scene. I’m from San Carlos, California, which is about 20 minutes south of San Francisco and right in the middle of Silicon Valley. Pretty much everyone in my town is wealthy, well-educated and involved in tech. I went to a pretty big IB high school, in which there was a palpable dichotomy between the IB and non-IB kids. What this meant was even though my grade had about 500 students, I only ever had classes with or spent any time with about 150 of those kids (and I went to elementary and middle school with about 60 of them). Not surprisingly, my grade felt really small. And very few IB kids ever partied, dated or did anything classically “fun.” Life was pretty easy but excruciatingly boring.

So, when college application time rolled around, I applied to 13 schools, all over the country. As the May 1 decision deadline approached, I couldn’t seem to figure out where I wanted to spend the next four years. I was constantly writing down lists of pros and cons for each school in the margins of my class notes and making lists of what I wanted in a college. Things like a good academic reputation, competitive sports, Greek life, party scene, nice people, pretty campus and being far from home were some of the things I was looking for. In essence, I wanted everything my high school was lacking.

After cutting my list of potential schools down, I wrestled between University of Michigan, UC Santa Barbara and Virginia for weeks. But, in the end, Charlottesville had hotter guys and better weather than Ann Arbor. And even though Santa Barbara was probably the most practical choice, it didn’t have anything I really wanted.

On top of that, I was worried if I stayed in California for college, I’d be stuck here my whole life. And while the homeland of veganism and “hella” isn’t a bad place to be trapped, I didn’t want to have to live with the regret of “what if” in terms of giving the East Coast a shot. Something about staying in the same state, or even on the same coast, just felt too safe. After four years of boredom and IB classes I thought I deserved something better in college. And if we’re being totally honest, I think I felt like I had earned the right to make my parents pay out-of-state tuition (sorry, guys).

So, I packed up my three duffel bags and set off in pursuit of something I hoped would be a lot more fun, exciting and dynamic than high school. And first year didn’t disappoint. I took classes that actually inspired me outside of the classroom and helped me find new passions (writing!). I met people that become some of the closest friends I’ve ever had. I even got naked and streaked the Lawn.

I’ve been home for three weeks now and I’m already eager to get back to school and watch (mediocre) football, eat Bodo’s on Sundays and groggily stumble my way to early morning classes. And that’s how I know I made the right choice, because I think I’m happier in Charlottesville than anywhere else. T-66 days until my flight back.

Over the past year it seems everyone has been asking me why I chose to attend this University. And while I’ve always found it a bit difficult to respond, it’s a fair question, and I’m going to try and articulate my answer now. My apologies to all those people who I gave watery answers to, like, “I toured the University and liked it,” or, “It had everything I was looking for.” Because while those things are true, the question still stands —why would a California girl leave sunshine and beaches for a small town with less-than-stellar football?

Let me start by setting the scene. I’m from San Carlos, California, which is about 20 minutes south of San Francisco and right in the middle of Silicon Valley. Pretty much everyone in my town is wealthy, well-educated and involved in tech. I went to a pretty big IB high school, in which there was a palpable dichotomy between the IB and non-IB kids. What this meant was even though my grade had about 500 students, I only ever had classes with or spent any time with about 150 of those kids (and I went to elementary and middle school with about 60 of them). Not surprisingly, my grade felt really small. And very few IB kids ever partied, dated or did anything classically “fun.” Life was pretty easy but excruciatingly boring.

So, when college application time rolled around, I applied to 13 schools, all over the country. As the May 1 decision deadline approached, I couldn’t seem to figure out where I wanted to spend the next four years. I was constantly writing down lists of pros and cons for each school in the margins of my class notes and making lists of what I wanted in a college. Things like a good academic reputation, competitive sports, Greek life, party scene, nice people, pretty campus and being far from home were some of the things I was looking for. In essence, I wanted everything my high school was lacking.

After cutting my list of potential schools down, I wrestled between University of Michigan, UC Santa Barbara and Virginia for weeks. But, in the end, Charlottesville had hotter guys and better weather than Ann Arbor. And even though Santa Barbara was probably the most practical choice, it didn’t have anything I really wanted.

On top of that, I was worried if I stayed in California for college, I’d be stuck here my whole life. And while the homeland of veganism and “hella” isn’t a bad place to be trapped, I didn’t want to have to live with the regret of “what if” in terms of giving the East Coast a shot. Something about staying in the same state, or even on the same coast, just felt too safe. After four years of boredom and IB classes I thought I deserved something better in college. And if we’re being totally honest, I think I felt like I had earned the right to make my parents pay out-of-state tuition (sorry, guys).

So, I packed up my three duffel bags and set off in pursuit of something I hoped would be a lot more fun, exciting and dynamic than high school. And first year didn’t disappoint. I took classes that actually inspired me outside of the classroom and helped me find new passions (writing!). I met people that become some of the closest friends I’ve ever had. I even got naked and streaked the Lawn.

I’ve been home for three weeks now and I’m already eager to get back to school and watch (mediocre) football, eat Bodo’s on Sundays and groggily stumble my way to early morning classes. And that’s how I know I made the right choice, because I think I’m happier in Charlottesville than anywhere else. T-66 days until my flight back.


Published June 15, 2017 in Columns, Life







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