by Liv LuVisi
38 college applications. 38 times of typing in my name, email, address, social security number, and phone number. Approximately 20 essays (because not every college application requires one). An insurmountable amount of hours in front of a computer screen during my Senior year of high school. Follow-up calls from Oregon, Louisiana, Washington state, North Carolina, Montana, Utah, Michigan, Mississippi, Minnesota, Tennessee, Alaska, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Indiana, New York, Florida, Missouri, Ohio, and West Virginia.
And I chose Gardner-Webb University in small-town Boiling Springs, North Carolina.
I didn’t grow up in church. My parents were both born-and-raised Catholic, but after my older brother and I were born in 1992 and 1994 respectively, they stopped attending. It wasn’t until my Sophomore year of high school at fifteen years old that I went to church for the first time for a New Year’s Eve lock-in. I heard about God and the story of Jesus and how he died on the cross for the first time at midnight as I entered into the year 2010.
And I was hooked. I wanted to know more. Desperately.
However, I believed if I showed up on the front steps of that church again, they would turn me away. They would laugh and shake their heads at me and tell me I didn’t belong there. So I didn’t go back. I didn’t go back until I was invited t return to the same church again later that year in mid-February.
And I never looked back.
I was saved on August 1, 2010. I was baptized during my Senior year of high school.
And it was then that I knew I wanted to attend a Christian university, if I could help it. However, I also knew that cost was a HUGE factor in my decision. My parents had told me from a young age that they couldn’t help me pay for college, and it would be up to me to do it on my own.
When I received the phone call from Deborah, my Admissions counselor, to let me know I had been accepted into Gardner-Webb University, I was… happy. And I know what you’re thinking. She wasn’t ecstatic? She wasn’t overjoyed? She was just… happy? At that point in time, it was just another college I had been accepted into. However, the thing that caught my attention were the words,
“You also qualify to interview for one of our full-ride scholarships.”
I couldn’t believe it. It was exactly what I had been searching for.
With a little persuasion, I convinced my mom to fly across the country to North Carolina with me mid-February of my Senior year of high school. We arrived the evening before the interview. Before we checked in at our hotel in Shelby, we found Gardner-Webb and drove around the campus, admiring its beauty and ALL. OF. THE. TREES. Growing up in the desert of Kuna, Idaho was nothing in comparison to the forests that surrounded us here in Boiling Springs!
The following day was my interview. My mom and I sat in on several sessions on the university, and the more that we heard about the Honors program, study abroad opportunities, small class sizes, and Christian atmosphere, the more we were hooked. I met several faculty members, my admissions counselor, and even the president of Gardner-Webb himself, Dr. Frank Bonner, introduced himself to me. I couldn’t believe how personal everyone was and how excited they were for me to be there.
Eventually it came time for my interview. I sat down in a room with two professors and a current student, and we talked for over fifteen minutes – truth be told, my interview ran long. Between talking about my involvement in pageants, my agency back home for modeling and acting, my testimony and how I had found Christ just two years ago, I reached a deep, personal level with those people, and I felt like I belonged.
My interview was followed up by a quick twenty-minute-or-so tour of campus before my mom and I had to catch our flight back home to Idaho. I left that day with a smile on my face after taking a picture in front of the Gardner-Webb Admissions sign located outside the Dover Campus Center. For all I knew, this could be my home.
I told my mom from the beginning that even if I received the full-ride scholarship, if I wasn’t in love with the school, if I didn’t feel it was a place that would challenge me to continue to grow spiritually, I wasn’t going to attend college there. But I knew after that day at GWU that it would be a perfect fit, if I could only get it to work out financially.
The day I received a phone call from Deborah, I was at home. I saw the 704 number pop up on my cell phone, and I ran into the living room to answer. As I paced back and forth awaiting the news, Deborah congratulated me and told me I had been picked to receive the scholarship. My mom could see the good news all over my face, and she immediately broke down in tears: 1.) because she was so proud and so happy for me, and 2.) because she knew that meant her little girl was going to go across the country for college.
And the rest is history.
I now sit here in my Senior year at Gardner-Webb University, anticipating graduation in the spring. I look back on the last three years of my life, and I am amazed at how far I’ve come. I am not the same girl that sat in that interview room almost four years ago. I can’t lie to you. College is hard. College away from your family is especially hard. But it is worth it. It is so unbelievably worth it, and the lessons I have learned growing into a mature, independent woman on my own are untouchable. I am better because of Gardner-Webb University.
And to think it all started with 38 applications, right?
Liv LuVisi: California born, Idaho raised. Gardner-Webb Senior. Future Radio Personality.