During a two-year science honors program for high schoolers at Columbia University, Julieta Gruszko, who grew up in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., idealized the school and dreamed about the day she would attend. When a college counselor who was a friend of her mother’s suggested she also take a look at Rochester, she did it as a favor, visiting during her senior year. It was March when she toured the campus in a blizzard—she wished she’d listened to her mother’s suggestion to bring a hat—so visibility was low.
But she liked what she saw. More important, she liked what she heard, particularly the news that undergraduates got the opportunity to work in laboratories alongside professors. Back at Columbia a few weeks later, walking around campus on a gorgeous Saturday morning, Gruszko realized she didn’t want to be a student there after all. That day when she got home, her mother was waiting for her at the top of the stairs with news that an envelope from Rochester had arrived.
“To know that the University of Rochester was a better choice for me was a big moment,” she recalls. “As a science major, I’d like to do research as a career and the best time to start is now.”
Gruszko, who intends to major in physics and astronomy and complete a minor in math, also learned from subsequent visits that the school has an active social calendar for students with diverse interests. In high school she was on the debate and math teams and was the newspaper’s editor-in-chief.
“I didn’t want to go to a school that only focused on the sciences, as if that was the only thing you could have a conversation about,” she says. “I wanted a place that would let me express all the different sides of my personality, and that’s something I found here. There’s a big population of science majors, but they’re people interested in other things.”
And as a cellist, she was also drawn to the Eastman School, where she takes lessons from a graduate student and enjoys having the option to go to a concert any night of the week.
Gruszko, a member of the Pride Network and publicity manager for the Sexual Health Awareness Group, has taken a part-time job in the undergraduate physics department “to make a place for myself,” and hopes one day to focus on the field of cosmology. She’s not yet sure how to approach her study of how the universe began, but she knows she’s in the right place to try to figure that out.
“I’ve definitely had that moment where I’m walking around campus and thinking, ‘We have experts here in just about everything,’” she says.