When I chose to visit Washington & Jefferson college as a high school junior, I had not heard much about this small liberal arts college. In fact, the only reason I knew it existed is because it had aggressively attempted to recruit my brother into its ranks, and tried to lure Dylan in with the highest Dean’s Award scholarship they could offer. Obviously, their attempts failed to seduce him, but it is what put this college on my family’s map. I was interested in the idea that the school was relatively local (“far enough to prevent a surprise visit but close enough for your parents to run you down something if you need it” as one of the admissions officers put it) and had small class sizes. One of my great fears of going to a large school like Pitt or Penn State was being in one of those auditorium-style classrooms in which I would be taught by some TA. I did not want to be reduced to a number in the crowd, and the classrooms that looked almost identical in size to that of my high school appealed to me.
During one the admissions events, I asked my mother to take me to W&J to check it out. Considering how much she hated both the city and trip to Cleveland where my brother currently went, she was all too happy to oblige the fantasy of me going to a school a mere forty minutes away. While we were there, in the Media Room, they had a presentation on some of the unique opportunities available at the college. While they did the usual assortment of propaganda about study abroad opportunities and talked about their list of majors, they began to introduce the unique program of W&J: the Magellan Project. They brought in a couple students who told us about their trips. The trips they planned, the trips that were born solely from their own interest, and even to this day I remember the exact trip of one of the student presenting during that event. He had gone to the Vatican the summer prior to study the Catholic Church’s hierarchy and had been there for the historic moment of Pope Benedict XVI abdication of the papal throne. I immediately turned to my mother and told her that I would love to do that. I had never left the country before, and a college was essentially offering me a blank check to go wherever I wanted so long as I put in effort. Since I was thirteen or fourteen, I had said my dream was to go to the island nation of Malta sometime before I die. I know that sounds morbid, but it was more of a joke than the nihilistic tone is sounds like in retrospect. They had a reputation for business, a major in history, were a top producer of lawyers and doctors, and were willing to help me fulfill my dreams – W&J did succeed in seducing me. Also, the generous scholarship helped cement my first choice, but the Magellan Project is what pushed this college into my primary choice.