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Heads or Tails? Did I Let a Coin Make My College Decision for Me?

Jules Slater ’21, Advocacy Communication POE, Future Mayor of Picklesburgh

As a Juniata campus tour guide, I’ve often been asked to reflect on my own admissions process.

“What made Juniata stand out?”
“What made me choose Juniata?”

I’ve been indecisive my whole life. Questions like “What should we have for dinner tonight?” always stressed me out. It’s not that I think questions like this are particularly difficult to answer, but without enough information to make a distinct pro/con list—or worse, when the pros and cons are evenly balanced—I’d rather not make the final decision.

Because of this reason, my college decision process was a nightmare. There were some colleges that didn’t have what I was looking for—a close community, a good study abroad program, acceptable food, etc. These were some of my favorite criteria because I could immediately eliminate certain colleges. There were other schools, however, that started to have pros and cons that were harder to differentiate. I started to dread my college decision.

Juniata became a contender after my first visit to campus. At the beginning and prior to visiting, I was pretty much applying to make my mother (class of ’91) happy. When I got to campus, though, Juniata was clearly something I had seriously undervalued in my search process. Community? Check. Study Abroad? Check. Food? Seemed okay. Juniata also opened my eyes to things I didn’t even know I wanted in a college. Things like relationships with the surrounding area, unique course offerings, and music classes without being a music major.

Yes, Juniata checked boxes, but I initially felt I couldn’t go to Juniata simply because my mother had gone here. As I started to seriously consider another college, I found myself comparing everything back to Juniata. Finally, following my acceptance to both Juniata and a few other schools, I was visiting a random college in Ohio for an accepted students’ day (we’ll call this place Random College in Ohio), and I could really see myself there. Random College in Ohio’s admissions team was offering prizes like t-shirts and hats if you signed and made your deposit on the spot.

I was tempted by this offer. I thought, “I could sign that right now.” But I didn’t. I thought about how I kept comparing aspects of Random College in Ohio—which I thought was my first choice—back to Juniata.

This was, by far, the greatest moment of indecision I’ve ever felt. Not knowing what else to do, I asked my parents for help. My mom said (and I still don’t know how she thought of this—maybe she knew I could never make this decision on my own):

“Let’s flip a coin.”

Was I really going to let 25 cents decide where I would spend the next four years of my life? Let it decide the institution from which I would receive my bachelor’s degree? If you know me, it won’t surprise you to know that this method was preferable to making the decision myself…

We got a coin out from my mom’s purse. Heads would be Juniata, and tails would be Random College in Ohio.

It was tails. And my heart dropped.

That split second of realizing that I would be attending Random College in Ohio filled me with panic. That feeling was all I needed to end my indecision and admit the fact that Juniata was where I belonged.

So yes, I let a coin make my college decision for me, but not in the way you’d think. In the past three and a half years, I’ve never second-guessed this decision. I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be right now, I’ve had experiences unique to me, and I’ve met so many incredible people I never would have known at a random college in Ohio or anywhere else. And a simple quarter decided it.