Big Decision Bumbles: College Edition

“The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” 

Proverbs 16:9, ESV 

I started thinking about college and scholarship applications my freshman year of high school; I was already pouring over college websites, calculating the GPA I would need by graduation and what classes I would need to take over the next four years to get into the schools I wanted, scheduling my first (of three) SAT tests, and even took my first campus tours that year. I was a bit of an overachiever, to say the least.  

By the time my junior year rolled around, I had decided with finality that I would be attending Appalachian State University and enrolling in the Music Therapy program there. I had already toured the campus, spoken to an admissions adviser, researched my program of choice, and compared my qualifications to their admissions requirements and felt certain that I was guaranteed admission. I had also done a rough draft of my admissions and scholarship essays, so all that was left to do was actually apply, receive my acceptance letter, and pack my bags. I was ready!  

Now my Daddy has been a diehard fan of the North Carolina Tar Heels for as long as I can remember, and while he had attempted to sway me to consider UNC Chapel Hill in my college search, it just didn’t have the program of study that I thought I wanted, and besides, I had clearly already made my decision. The spring of my junior year of high school, however, I decided to win the Daughter of the Year Award by surprising him with tickets to a Carolina basketball game for his birthday. He was elated, of course, especially because I would be accompanying him to the game. So, on a chilly day in early spring, we made the two-hour drive to Chapel Hill for the game, and I didn’t know it yet, but that day would change the course of my life.  

We arrived to campus and did some walking around before we grabbed a bus to the Dean Dome for the game. I had heard tell of the beauty of Carolina’s campus, but nothing could have prepared me for the lush green quads, the historic buildings, the buzz of “The Pit” at the heart of campus, and even the spirit of the students and fans at the basketball game. We weren’t there for me to tour the campus or learn about the university, and I didn’t do those things explicitly, but for reasons I couldn’t explain at the time, my heart had been stolen by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It was something I could only describe as a spiritual experience; the Lord was calling me to that place, and I didn’t know why, but I knew I would go.  

From that day on, my whole direction changed. I scrapped my App State admissions and scholarship essays, scheduled an official tour of UNC-CH, and began studying up on Carolina’s history, programs, admissions requirements, and preparing for the early decision deadline in October of that year. Carolina ended up being the only college to which I applied, (which is NOT something I would recommend) but I felt the call of the Lord so strongly on my heart toward this place that I was confident it was the school for me. After applying and anxiously awaiting word from UNC, I was fortunate enough to be accepted as an early decision applicant and made plans to attend the following fall. I spent all four years of my undergraduate experience walking those same lush green quads and living and learning in those historic buildings and buzzing around The Pit with other college students and graduated with honors in May of 2016.  

What I learned from this whirlwind season of college prep and admissions applications and decisions and changes was that my plans are not always God’s plans, that I can work with all my might to do something in my own power, but that ultimately the Lord’s will prevails as long as I am sensitive to His calling when it comes. To this day I find myself often thanking God for changing my direction when He did and creating in me a desire for something completely different (and so much better) than I had imagined for myself. During my time at Carolina, I was surrounded by community and exposed to experiences that God used and orchestrated to very intentionally draw me to Himself, and I know that plan was set in motion the moment I unwittingly purchased those birthday basketball tickets for my Daddy.  

My hope in sharing this story is that you would rest in the assurance that God is in the midst of every decision you make, big or small, if you’ll only invite Him. Fortunately for us, He’ll often intervene even when we aren’t asking Him to, because He has plans for us to prosper in spite of ourselves. For me, one of those experiences ended up being my college career, and it took some pride swallowing at the time to admit that my previous path wasn’t the one for me after all. But bumbling through that was oh so worth it!  

I’m praying this week that you will surrender the decisions you have in front of you, no matter how big or small, to God and wait in expectation for how He will use them to bless you in surprising and abundant ways. Hopefully you will be less bullheaded than I was when it came to my college decision and allow the Lord to lead you far before you think you’ve made your decision on your own accord.  

Thanks for following along with me in the early life of Bumbling Beauty, my friends. I’m still learning how this all works and leaning into what the Lord is leading me to share in hopes that it is bringing you life and encouragement. I also want to invite you to give your feedback on any and everything you read in this blog; leave a comment below, message me on the Bumbling Beauty Facebook or Instagram pages, or shoot me an email at thebumblingbeautyblog@gmail.com. I appreciate you so much and am excited to see where this journey continues to take us.  

Talk soon! 

Lovingly Yours,  

Melisa  

P.S. Check out some photos below from my time at Carolina! (God is so good!)

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