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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.

The interview for this article was conducted in 2019.