Charleston; Illinois — Imagine being thrilled to become a part of something bigger than yourself; a chance to be surrounded by Black excellence and the opportunity to flourish in that same environment. During the spring of my senior year, I visited Tennessee State University with the notion that I was already done applying for schools (with Eastern Illinois University being one of those schools).
But, I fell in love with TSU and immediately felt like this could be my new home. I submitted my application that same week of my visit, and ensured I sent everything they needed to make the process quick and easy because it was almost time to decide. TSU sent me an acceptance email quickly after I applied, give or take a week or so. When it came to getting the rest of my important information from them, such as my award letter, it was a very slow process. This school is where I wanted to be and I made the decision to pursue TSU, but things didn't move as quickly as I thought they would. I was told by one of the mentors who took us on the trip that it was just a waiting game because it was an HBCU, and that I would probably get my award letter that contained my cost breakdown sometime in the earlier part of the summer.
For weeks the only information I received about the cost of attendance was what I got from Financial Aid. I played the waiting game, which also happened to several of my other peers. I spent the entire summer trying to determine my costs and if I got awarded any money. It was a nerve-wrecking feeling, then I kept getting asked questions like why are you committing to a school where you don’t know how much it’s going to cost. My mom sent emails to admissions and housing regarding my situation, and when she finally got ahold of someone over the phone, they told her that TSU was 3,500 kids over capacity and the administration was trying to work as quickly as possible to figure out housing and finish sending out award letters. I didn't know if I was going to have on-campus housing or not.
At the time, there were virtual board meetings with the school president who said that students would have to stay in hotels which wasn't something my parents were too thrilled about. There was no security in sending their child 6.5 hours away from home to possibly stay in a hotel for the semester, and or year.
In contrast, my Eastern financial aid counselor sent my mother an email stating that they offered me even more money to attend. Since I didn't know how much it would cost to attend TSU and not have housing when I was due to leave in two weeks, we began to take this offer seriously; so I went forth with the rest of the process for Eastern. I had everything solidified with them.
A week after my mom withdrew my application and I learned that I received a full academic scholarship from Tennessee — tuition and room and board were fully covered. I was crushed because I had already committed to another school due to a lack of communication and organization from the school I really wanted to be. I wish Tennessee had communicated this extremely important information with me to this day so I didn't have to settle for another place.