During spring break of 11th grade, I stood atop Emory’s library, looked out at red roofs and green leaves, and told my Dad that this is where I wanted to go to college. He turned to me, put a hand on my shoulder and said, “You can’t get into Emory. You just got a 19 on your ACT.” It would be two years until I met the infamous Sam Eshaghoff at a Phi Delt party, so I had to raise my test score the right way.

I studied as hard as I could so I could get into this school. And let me tell you that after four years here, there’s no feeling quite like sitting across from Dean Echols after handing in your degree application, having her look you right in the eye and say to you, “You’ll have to take a lab science this summer to graduate.” At that moment, I wanted to do what the most famous of Emory graduates do: get the hell out of this place and flee to Alaska. Into the Wild part II.

Feeling nostalgic about the end of this year, I looked at the supplemental Emory essay we all had to write to apply here, before writing this reflection. The question given to us was: “Many students apply to Emory based on size, location, reputation and, yes, the weather. Besides for these valid reasons, why is Emory a good match for you?” These were the four exact reasons I wanted to come here, and to not mention any of them was like an impossible game of Taboo. And this is what I wrote in the first paragraph of that essay: “This essay is like an impossible game of Taboo. I like Emory because of its size, location, reputation and the weather. These seem like some great reasons!”

Somehow, Emory let me in. And after four years, I think I’m finally ready to answer that essay prompt the right way. There are so many more reasons to like Emory — so many reasons that I’m thankful for this place:

At first, I thought of the days that were supposed to be important to me — my first class, my last class — but we don’t always choose the moments that will stick with us. So, here are the things that have stuck out:

I’m thankful for not living in Harris. I’m thankful to my RA who ate with me in the DUC, the same RA who never got me in trouble for stealing an ottoman from the study lounge. I’m thankful for all the seniors who saved me the stress of dating freshman girls. I’m thankful for the pre-games that we loved way more than actually going out.

I’m thankful to the professors, whose doors were always open. I’m thankful for the classes: for the films I never would have watched and the books I never would have read. For having professors that made me interested in neurons and Rembrandt and phenomenology. For always being told to ask questions.

I’m thankful for all the 2 a.m. conversations where we talked about the people we had crushes on who still hadn’t responded to our texts. We talked about date parties and Maggie’s and Steak ‘n Shake. We talked about snow days. We talked about whether or not Washington University at St. Louis was a school rival. We talked about how our friend’s mom was sick. We talked about Netflix. Tinder. About Yik Yak. We talked about our future. We talked about these things in pajama pants and sweatshirts that hadn’t been washed in weeks, lost in a haze of sleeplessness and the slap happiness that comes from too much caffeine. I think that these conversations were what college was supposed to feel like. These moments have already become memories to me, and these are the kinds of experiences that I’m thankful for.

So, even though I won’t technically receive my diploma because of that god darn lab science … and my dad and I probably can’t go back onto the library’s rooftop without getting arrested … I do feel like I’ve earned something only this place could have taught me, and I attribute much of it to the Class of 2015.

Tony’s from Chicago, Illinois. He is graduating with a B.A. in Psychology and English/Creative Writing.