There is this early childhood memory that I have from my first time flying on an airplane. Like most events that occur when we are young, I don’t remember every minute detail, but I do remember little blurbs: the rev of the engine taking off, greeting the pilot as I boarded and not to mention that feeling of finally leaving the ground and meeting the air. Perhaps what I remember most clearly is, strangely enough, what I was wearing. I remember that the day before we were due to depart, my father came into the house with a package for my sister and me. In that package were two t-shirts: a Princeton shirt for me and a Columbia shirt for my little sister. The next day, at the New Orleans airport, I remember wearing that shirt to board my first flight.
Fast forward fourteen years, I have committed to Princeton University. I wish I could say that the story goes that my family has always dreamed or known that this is where I would end up. But, the story was never that I was going to end up at Princeton. Back on that airplane at age four in that t-shirt, Princeton was by no means my predestined trajectory, but an idea. This t-shirt that my father purchased was a tangible manifestation of a narrative that my parents hoped for me and my sister. It wasn’t a prescription for our future. They wanted to expose us to the idea that it could be possible if we wanted it to be.
Over the last year, the idea of where I wanted to go to college changed every day. Almost like clockwork, I would walk into the kitchen and declare to my family with the utmost confidence that my dream school was (insert school name) University. My family would feign support while knowing with confidence that it would change again the very next day.
This trend continued even through the college trip that we took in the fall where we toured Princeton as well as five other schools with a similar profile. As I walked onto each campus, I fell in love with each for different reasons. This bothered me. I thought that there would be schools that I liked more than others, and I struggled to decide which school to apply for early admission. I had my applications completed for all of these schools and I just had to decide which to pull the trigger on. In fact, Princeton was the last school that I toured and ultimately became my first choice.
After a whirlwind day in New York City, we drove into New Jersey to be ready for our visit at Princeton. Our hotel was right outside of the gates of campus, and even though it was dark outside, I thought it would be intriguing to see this side of the campus. After all, if I decided to matriculate there the campus would be my home during the day and at night time, so I thought it was worth seeing it from this perspective. Driving through the campus at night time left me in awe. There was not a star in the sky on that evening and because of fall break, there were hardly any students either. Even still, the campus sat boldly as if it were not afraid of the dark. With that boldness came this energy. At that very moment I felt the ideas and innovation flowing through its veins, the decorated history sitting in its heart, and most excitingly, the future sitting in its palm wide open waiting for someone to pick up the energy and make a difference with it in the service of humanity. We went back and visited the next day during the day time and the people there were so friendly. As we wandered across the campus, a student stopped me and my family and graciously showed us around. This was not the exception but the norm for the campus. For the first time, in my college search I did not have the intense agenda of an applicant. I felt so much like a student that I even forgot to document my visit with pictures or a visit to the bookstore, a rite of passage on all of my previous tours.
All of this was complemented by what Princeton had to offer me. With a commitment to undergraduates, I will have access to world renowned professors in intimate settings as early as my first year. The Residential College system that resembles something out of a Harry Potter novel piqued my interest and the dedicated alumni who all seem to be devoted to Princeton reminded me of the school spirit here at Episcopal. All of these surface level attributes complemented by the energy from campus that night showed me that this was the school for me.
Even though I am beyond thrilled to have the opportunity to attend Princeton next year, I also know that it is not the only school for me. I am in love with all of the schools I applied to for different reasons, and I am at peace knowing that had I matriculated to any other school, I not only would be happy, but I would thrive. Throughout my college search, I let the process work. I did what I needed to do to present my best self and waited for these signs and experiences to become apparent to me. I know that all of the other schools I applied to would provide me the same quality of education and enrichment, but it is crazy to me that fourteen years later, Princeton would become, officially, part of my story.
Douglas Robins is a senior in his sixth year at Episcopal. He is an engaged member of the Episcopal community as a Writing Fellow, Student Vestry member, President of the National Honors Society and a part of the Honors Thesis program. Douglas also is an active member of the performing arts community and enjoys the flexibility of being able to explore his academic interests and his diverse extracurricular interests all in one school day.