How Gentry Shannon Came to Patrick Henry College

Posted by Rachel Cochrane on 6/9/20 2:51 PM

Choosing the right college is one of the hardest decisions you can make. It feels like an all-or-nothing situation where one false step could lead to ruining your future or forever altering your career path.

But here at Patrick Henry College we believe that choosing the right college comes down to seeking God’s plan for your life. The comfort that His plan gives us can help calm our fear of making the wrong decision.

Gentry Shannon just completed her first year at PHC and has some thoughts to share on how she decided which college to attend.

The Decision

Ironically, I almost didn’t even apply to PHC. At the beginning of my junior year of high school, I was still set on going to medical school and becoming a physician's assistant. Since PHC’s majors are geared more toward government and the classics, the college wasn’t really on my radar…

About halfway through junior year, I realized that although I enjoyed science, I didn’t want to take four years of science classes in college, four more years in medical school, and then spend who knows how many years in residency before entering the workforce.

Around that same time, I discovered that I loved languages, politics, and philosophy, and I started looking into International Relations programs. Even though I had decided on a major that was exactly what PHC offered, when it came time to apply to colleges, I still wasn’t really sure what I wanted in an institution.

So I applied to eighteen colleges (slightly overkill, I know). As financial aid offers started coming in, and I visited a couple colleges, I finally narrowed down my list in February of my senior year to PHC and one other school. 

Making that final choice was agonizing. I had a better financial aid offer from the other school, but my heart kept telling me that Patrick Henry was where I belonged. I spent two months researching the colleges, talking to students and professors, making lists of pros and cons, and trying to convince my parents to weigh into the decision. I kept going back and forth, continuously questioning whether I had made the right choice.

Knowing that God is sovereign, I shouldn’t have been scared, but I kept thinking of the consequences should I make the ‘wrong’ decision. How might it affect the friendships I made? The job I pursued? My outlook on life? Looking back, it’s almost comical how worried I was. I was so bogged down in the tiny details and relying on myself to figure things out when I should have been relying on God. In hindsight, it’s clear that God had my back the whole time. 

When I finally made my decision, it was as if a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I was excited and confident that I’d made the right decision. Nevertheless, I was still apprehensive; I was sure that eventually, for one reason or another, I’d have some inkling of regret for not choosing the other school.

The Confirmation

To this day, there has not been a single moment when I questioned my decision. I’ve never even had a fleeting thought of, ‘what if?’ I have no other explanation for this other than it must be the grace and love of the Lord.

In my finite and anxious mind, I put all the weight of my college decision on myself. I fretted, analyzed, and desperately prayed for guidance, unsure of what the future held. But why should I worry when God is looking out for me? I didn’t know how everything would turn out, but He did.

Moving Forward

Don’t just talk to your tour guide and the teachers of the classes you visit. Spend time chatting with students in the dining hall or the coffee shop and set up a meeting with a teacher in the major you’re looking at. I found it especially helpful to talk to students who were at different stages in their college journey; a senior will likely have a vastly different perspective than a freshman.

Some of the most helpful and informative interactions I had at colleges were with extraordinarily kind students who took fifteen minutes out of their day to have a candid conversation with me. In my opinion, the attitude and experiences of the average student will give you a much better picture of that college than any brochure or website. Don’t be afraid to ask them the hard questions! 

On a more abstract note, stress less! I know that’s easy to say and a lot harder to actually do, but I spent so many hours in unnecessary panic over my college decision. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t spend time carefully thinking about your decision and looking into the colleges, but at a certain point, you really know all that you need to in order to make a well-informed decision.

At that point, if you’re still feeling anxious, the best thing you can do is spend time in prayer. I wish I had spent less time in frantic research and more time in thoughtful prayer. Trust that God will give you the guidance, information, and confidence necessary to make the decision. Philippians 4:6 says, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God."

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