By Justin Felton
It’s that time of year again—students are beginning to hear back from the institutions about on campus interviews, graduate assistantships, and more! It’s hard to believe that a year ago I was in that same position.
A year ago, about this time, I was starting to receive my first responses and eventually heard from the University of Utah. To be completely honest, my grad school search was centered on the Rocky Mountain Region, primarily because I wanted to be in the mountains. However, my partner had also accepted a job offer in Denver, and I wanted to be close to her. When I applied to grad schools, I applied to the U on a whim. It was extremely last minute, and I hadn’t really considered the possibility of moving to Utah. Well, that all changed during my on campus visit.
Coming to campus, I had already been accepted to a school in Colorado and had been offered an assistantship. I came to the U not really expecting to be overly impressed with the program. I had essentially made up my mind that I was going to school in Colorado. From the minute I landed at the SLC International Airport, I started to second guess that initial decision. The current students met us at the airport and were extremely welcoming. I could tell they were genuinely excited to meet all of us potential new students. The whole ride up to campus, I was in awe of the mountains. I had never been to SLC, but to be honest, it was the most beautiful place I had been to in my life. I thought Denver was incredible with the mountains off in the distance, but after arriving in SLC, I truly saw what it meant to have mountains in your backyard.
At last, we arrived at the Guest House and I settled into my room. I was able to talk to some of my potential cohort members and learned where they were from, their passions, and why they were interested in the U. Each individual had a unique story to share; all were passionate about helping students and were in the hunt for a program that would help them accomplish their goals. After going to dinner and continuing to meet more of the individuals at the U, I soon started to realize this is where I wanted to be. Going into Friday interviews, I was extremely nervous. I woke up that morning and knew this is where I wanted to attend grad school. I knew my only chance was to land an assistantship to help with the expenses.
Interviews went surprisingly well. Everyone was energetic and truly cared about what I wanted to get out of the experience. I remember struggling to rank the positions because I knew each position would provide me with an awesome opportunity! Leaving interviews, I was excited to hear what the future would hold. I knew I wasn’t guaranteed a position, but I knew this was where I was meant to be. I knew the University of Utah would provide me with the most opportunity to grow as an individual and as a professional. All of the faculty and staff were extremely welcoming and promised an experience unlike any other. After a full semester in the program, I can tell you, I have only been thrilled with my experience. All of the professors are truly there for your success. Coming from an engineering background, I was afraid to attend office hours because I never felt adequate in my abilities. In the ELP program, I love going to office hours to get honest feedback on my papers and to simply to get to know my professors as individuals. They inspire me and push me to my full potential. I am confident that I made the right decision to attend the University of Utah!
I know the U isn’t for everyone, but from personal experience, it has exceeded all of my expectations. I love being on campus, working with students, and researching topics that truly interest me. On the weekends, I love to escape to the mountains, which are just a few minutes from campus. Hiking, snowshoeing, camping, and skiing are all activities that help me keep the work-life balance that is ever critical in the hectic world of student affairs!
My advice going into Preview Days is be yourself and be open. Don’t be afraid to ask questions that will help you make your decision. On campus interviews are just as much about you finding your fit as it is the school choosing you. I can remember asking current students random questions about their long distance relationships, the apartment hunt, the rigors of the program, churches they attend, etc. These were all questions critical to helping me make my decision; all questions that eventually helped me land here at the U! You never know what opportunities will open up or how your life can change by a few days on campus. I am so glad that I kept an open mind during my visit. My experience has been incredible, and I am so glad to call myself a part of the incredible family here at the University of Utah!
Justin Felton is a first-year student in the ELP program, with a graduate assistantship with Fraternity and Sorority Life. Justin graduated in 2014 from Purdue University in Indiana with a degree in Civil Engineering.