Growing up in Fremont, California, a suburb of San Jose, I assumed I'd stay in my home state to attend college.

California has plenty of great schools where I’d pay in-state tuition. So, when I sat down during my senior year to begin the application process, I had a ton of familiar institutions on my list.

With a solid 3.5 GPA and extracurriculars ranging from theater to swimming to Eagle Scouts, I felt certain I was a competitive applicant. I worked diligently on applications for a number of California public schools: University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), San Diego, Davis, Santa Barbara, and Merced. I rounded out my list with one East Coast school. It was something of a wild card, but one that felt like it would be a dream to attend—Boston University (BU).

I was intrigued by the diversity of programs at BU, and after making a trip to visit the university, I fell in love with the campus and the city of Boston. It was a huge change from my Silicon Valley upbringing, and the opportunity to do something completely different was exhilarating. As a private school on the other side of the country, I wasn’t sure exactly how I’d make it work financially, but it was still worth a shot.

I was surprised—and grew increasingly worried—as the rejections trickled in from the California state schools where I’d applied. I only got accepted to UC Merced, which was my safety school. Then my acceptance from BU arrived. I was elated, but I also knew the tuition cost was going to be a major hurdle.

I’m fortunate that my parents had started saving money for my college education when I was a young kid. This lessened the financial burden, but my family’s savings weren’t nearly enough to cover the entirety of BU’s costs.

To help close the gap, BU offered me a merit scholarship of $10,000 per year, which would be applied directly to my tuition. This reduced the cost to a point where I was able to at least consider attending. I worked on a budget and realized I’d need to offset additional expenses by getting a job on campus. I wasn’t a work-study student, but I did take on several part-time jobs, including a BU Telefund caller, a guest service associate at the school’s event center and an admissions ambassador.

The final piece that made BU financially feasible was adjusting my—and my family’s—expectations about how often I’d be going home. We decided I’d only come home twice a year—once for winter break and once for the summer. What’s more, I needed to be strategic about planning my travel. I tried to book airfare as early as possible to get a cheaper rate, and I used the same airline to accumulate enough miles to fly home a couple of times for free. Not going home for every long weekend was hard at first because I’m close with my family, but I also found value in being on my own and the independence this fostered.

After all was said and done—and paid for—Boston University was the dream come true I’d imagined as a high school senior. It gave me the experience of living in a brand-new place, in a new climate, thousands of miles from where I grew up. I attended school with students from all over the globe, and I had access to excellent academic and student-life resources. From one-on-one time with world-class professors to a state-of-the-art gym, I can’t imagine a better college experience than BU. I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in political science and a minor in business. I’m back on the West Coast now, working at a PR agency in California, and I’m beyond grateful for my time as a BU Terrier.

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