View of the outside of Phelps Hall.

The leaves are turning red and the days are growing shorter; the fall season is definitely here. For me, that means starting my sophomore year here at Winona State University but for many of you high school juniors and seniors out there, this is the season for making countless campus visits and filling out college applications.

Even though it was two years ago, I remember my own college search well and I want to share my story with all of you. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry—well, maybe not, but hopefully you’ll learn something about the process of discovering that college that’s right for you.

So here it goes…

The year is 2010, the summer before my senior year of high school, and one sunny June day my mom and I made the two hour drive to Winona, MN in order to visit St. Mary’s University. I actually had no intention of touring Winona State University—I’d never even heard of the school—but my mom said “We are here anyway so we might as well go and look around. Who knows, maybe you’ll like it.”

I was unconvinced but agreed to humor her and check it out. As soon as I set foot on campus I felt an immediate attraction to the tree-lined courtyard and the ivy-covered buildings.

There was just such an air of intellectual curiosity and time-honored tradition. It felt like I already belonged there, like I had stumbled upon a missing piece of myself that I had been looking for the last few years.

Visions of myself going to class in Minne, studying in the Darrel W. Krueger Library, grabbing lunch with friends in the Smaug flashed through my mind as we trailed behind the student Ambassador during the campus tour.

I was shocked to realize WSU was exactly what I was looking for in a college: a respected academic program a beautiful campus, a smaller student population and professors who love to teach– a place to call home.

When I finally did tour the Saint Mary’s University campus, I felt none of that instinctive connection. Saint Mary’s is also a small school with a great academic reputation and dedicated professors, but it just didn’t pull at my heart the way WSU did.

Even though I toured several more colleges before the end of summer, just to see what they had to offer I told myself, it didn’t really matter. In my heart, I knew that I would move to Winona and spend the next four years at WSU. I have never once regretted my decision.

That’s the moral of this story, I guess. Choosing which university to attend after high school is a difficult decision. There are so many options out there but when you find the right college, you’ll just know.

Because you’ll be able to feel it, you’ll feel like this is where you are meant to be. Home.