I stepped gingerly down the aluminum bleachers along my high school's football field. It was a steamy Texas October evening during my sophomore year, and some friends and I had gathered to watch our school's football game. I wanted a hot dog, and, since it was almost halftime, I hoped to beat the crowd to the concession stand.
As I stepped onto the blacktop, I heard someone shouting, "Charity!" I looked around and realized the voice came from my friend Paige, who'd graduated the previous spring. "Hey, wait up!"
She climbed down the bleachers and gave me a quick hug. "Hey, it's good to see you," I said. "How's college life?"
Her eyes filled with excitement. "Awesome. You would love Sterling College, Charity. I could so see you there."
"OK," I said, impatiently eyeing the line forming at the concession stand.
"Seriously! There are tons of activities to get involved in, and I love the atmosphere on campus. Sterling is perfect for you. You should really think about it."
"Hmmm. Where is Sterling?"
"It's in Kansas, and
" I frowned and interrupted. "No thanks," I said curtly. "I really don't like Kansas."
After our conversation ended, I figured I didn't need to know any more about Sterling College. After all, I already knew enough about Kansas. My family went to Wichita every summer for a church convention. I was completely bored the entire week we were there, so just thinking about living in Kansas for four years was enough to make me yawn. Plus, I was a homebody with no car. I'd miss my family in Texas, and I'd have no way to make the trip home.
On top of all that, I already knew where I wanted to go. Since seventh grade, I'd wanted to attend this Christian university in my home state. So even though Paige loved Sterling, I didn't see any reason to change my plans.
The Right Place for Me?
During my senior year when it was time for my college search, my family and I visited my dream school. I'd been to the athletic facilities for track competitions a few times, and I was excited to learn more about the rest of the campus.
As we drove around the campus, I was overwhelmed by its size. It felt more like a city than a school. As I sat in on a class in one of the lecture halls, I realized there were more seats in that classroom than students in my high school. Well, maybe if I talk to some students, I'll hear more about what it's like to be on such a large campus, I thought. But I never had the chance to talk one-on-one with any students, and the professor I met was rude. I felt overwhelmed and unwelcome.
By January of my senior year, I was deeply discouraged about finding the right college. Even worse, so many of my classmates at the Christian high school I attended had found colleges they were excited about. As my entire class boarded a bus to attend a Christian college fair, almost everybody talked about their futures and the schools they hoped would be at the fair.
I felt miserable. I turned my face to the window and held back tears.
Lord, what am I supposed to do? I prayed. I feel like it's too late for me to find the right school.
When we got to the college fair, I walked aimlessly down the aisles. As I rounded a corner, a picture in one of the booths caught my eye.
I moved closer to the display. "Is that Paige?" I asked no one in particular.
An admissions counselor near the table responded, "Yes, it is. Do you know her?"
"I went to high school with her."
"Have you heard about Sterling?"
I nodded. "Paige told me about it."