Friday, August 23, 2013

Choosing Vanderbilt

Nathan decided a couple of years ago that he would like to go to graduate school.  I come from a very education-centered family and have always been supportive of that.

Last fall when working his way through his final year at BYU it was finally time to start addressing that desire.  Nathan took the GRE and received a very good score.  We started hearing from schools, inviting him to apply and waiving application fees.  Three of these schools were Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York, Notre Dame in Indiana, and Vanderbilt here in Nashville.  

We had never really considered going out of state for school.  Nathan had already started working in a research lab at BYU under a really wonderful professor, and we just assumed he would stay on there.  Then, one day Nathan came home from school and said, "What do you think about going out of state?"  He thought I would be totally against it (not sure why...), but my response was, "Sounds cool to me.. let's see what happens."

Nathan submitted his applications to those three schools, plus BYU just in case.  We heard back first from Rensselaer - no.  Then, we waited for months and months.. no word from anywhere!  During that time we both had a very special feeling about Notre Dame.  We decided that it was our first choice, and if we heard back from them with a yes, we were going. Second choice was BYU, and third choice was Vanderbilt. The reason being that we didn't know anything about Vandy, we knew it was pretty hard to get into and we didn't even think it was a real possibility.

We heard back from BYU with a yes, which was expected.  Then we heard back from Vanderbilt that we were on a waiting list.  We didn't want to bank our lives on a waiting list, so that was out.  Then, we heard back from Notre Dame with a no.  We were pretty surprised, and it caused us a lot of stress. Suddenly we had to reevaluate. We decided to wait until BYU's acceptance response deadline and if we hadn't heard back from Vanderbilt, then we were staying in Provo.

One week before the deadline, Nathan got an unexpected email from a professor here at Vanderbilt. She was interested in him, and wanted to talk to him on the phone.  They set up an interview on the phone for the following Monday, just days before the deadline.  The evening after speaking to him, she sent an email stating their intent to offer him acceptance with benefits. Vanderbilt is also a prestigious school, which could help Nathan later in his career, especially if he ever wanted to be a professor.

At this point, we didn't know what to do!  We were so conflicted.  We had been praying for months about getting into ANY graduate school, and now we were forced to make a choice in only a couple of days that would greatly affect our family in the long term.  Nathan sought the advice of his professors at BYU, who were very vague.  His research professor offered him a fellowship (additional money) if he stayed, and promised that he would be done in 4 years instead of the 5 at Vanderbilt.

It began to seem obvious that the greater benefit would be to stay at BYU.  I honestly felt quite let down that we were going to stay, but I was trying to be supportive of Nathan and his choices, and so I told him that if he felt we should stay, then we would stay.  It made logical sense... so let's do it.

After one day of having decided on BYU, Nathan sat me down and told me something wasn't right. He didn't feel like BYU was the right choice and he felt like the spirit was making him feel unsettled about it.  I told him, "Why don't we decide on Vanderbilt and see how that feels for 24 hours, compared to our BYU decision?" 

We knelt together in prayer and told Heavenly Father that we had decided on Vanderbilt, and asked Him to help us to feel peace if this was the right decision.  The difference in the way we felt over the next 24 hours was very significant. We both felt peaceful, and the next evening we sat down together, looked each other in they eyes, and said, "It's supposed to be Vanderbilt."

Nothing about coming to Vanderbilt made logical sense.  Yes, they offered us scholarships, benefits, stipends... but so did BYU.  We knew it would cost us thousands to relocate our family. We knew it would be inconvenient, hard, possibly isolated.. but we both knew it was what Heavenly Father wanted for us.  So we did it.

Here we are after A LOT of effort and money, and looking back I can already see the blessings unfolding for us.  We have only lived here a month. I can only dream of what wonderful things Heavenly Father has in store for us. He truly does take care of us.

Three nights ago, Nathan and I were talking about the path that lead us here to Tennessee.  He was lamenting that he never felt he had a good mentor in his education. Someone that had done it all before, was unbiased and could guide him where he should go and what he should do.  I reminded him that despite lacking such a physical figure, look where we are!  We have the ultimate mentor guiding us. By relying upon Heavenly Father, we have come all the way from the beginning of Nathan's college career at UVU to BYU to Vanderbilt, with really very few setbacks. He has blessed us and guided us in everything. He watches over us and if we listen carefully, he does tell us where to go.

That is the best kind of mentor you can have.

Evelyn Explores Vanderbilt Campus