Kristen Ernst is a health sciences, emphasis in pre-physical therapy major from Aurora, IL
Hometown: Aurora, IL
Year: Expected graduation: May 2022
Minor: Family and child studies
What scholarships did you receive and why did you receive them? How has the financial support impacted your experience at NIU?
I have received academic scholarships from NIU and the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation. These scholarships have helped me avoid student loan debt. Although I have a few student loans, the amount is considerably less than if I chose a different school. These scholarships allowed me to focus on my education and not worry about how I will be able to go to school or pay for necessities like food and shelter.
What is your major (and/or minor) and why did you decide on this course of study?
My major is health sciences with an emphasis in pre-physical therapy. I also have a minor in family and child studies. Once I finish my undergraduate degree, I plan to attend graduate school to get my doctorate in physical therapy. Hopefully, I will be able to attend NIU for graduate school.
When I was in sixth grade, I had to see a physical therapist for a swimming injury. I had a very negative experience, but that motivated me to do better and be better. I want to provide athletes with a better outcome than I had. I quit swimming due to my experience and have not gone back in many years. I don't want to put another athlete in the position where they have to give up their dream over a treatable injury.
What has been something you have found pleasantly surprising about your experience at NIU?
To be honest, NIU was not the first school I wanted to attend. I applied to four other schools and got into them all. I had a hard first few semesters at NIU. I did not connect well with my roommate and had a hard time making friends. However, once I started involving myself in different aspects of NIU (joining pre-physical therapy, going to the rec, participating in RHA events, joining Greek life, having an on-campus job as a Northern Ambassador and peer educator, being in Research Rookies and the Honors Program), making friendships that will last a lifetime became easy. NIU changed from a college I did not want to attend to a place I made my home, a place it will be hard to say goodbye to, and a place where I made many memories.
How have you connected with other students at NIU?
I've connected with other students by joining different organizations on campus. During my first few semesters, I was very uninvolved and had very few on-campus friends.
Are you involved in any student organizations or extracurricular activities? If so, which ones? How have they added to your experience as a Huskie?
The two organizations/clubs I have joined are the pre-physical therapy club and Greek life with the organization alpha Kappa Delta Phi. Through the club, I have learned different aspects of physical therapy and what to expect when taking the GRE and applying to schools, and even what the program is like at NIU. It has really developed my understanding about physical therapy and the program at NIU. This has helped me decide that NIU is my No.1 choice for grad school.
Through Greek life, I connected with many students that I may not have connected with otherwise. Alpha Kappa Delta Phi is part of the United Greek Council, which is the multicultural council. Being able to connect with students with all types of backgrounds and experiences is amazing, and I think it really shows the diversity at NIU. Our council gets together all the time. I have my sisters, but I have also connected with members of other sororities and fraternities who have improved my experience at NIU.
Who has been one of your favorite instructors/professors and why? What course did they teach?
My favorite professor is Dr. Daniel Olson. He taught my anatomy course, BIOS 311. He is very organized, and it helped everyone learn the material in a short amount of time. He is also very understanding and makes lectures fun, even when they're over an hour long. He keeps it entertaining by telling stories that relate to our topics.
Where is your favorite spot on campus or in the community? Why are you drawn to it?
I have many favorite spots on campus. However, I think my favorite is the entire east side of campus. With that being the location of most of my courses, I am always over there. The buildings are breathtakingly beautiful at all times of the year. There's an outdoor study area, and students can rent equipment and go out on the lagoon, or simply take a walk around the water.
What advice would you give to a student who is applying to colleges?
When I was applying to and visiting colleges, I knew exactly where I wanted to go. However, it didn't work out in my favor, especially financially. At all the colleges I visited, my parents would ask, "How do you like it? Do you see yourself here? Does it feel like your home?" These questions were always hard to answer. I enjoyed all my visits. I could see myself at any of the colleges. But none of them felt like home.
When I was a freshman at NIU, it still did not feel like home. I didn’t get that feeling until I joined my sorority. My sisters provided me with that environment of home. College students tend to overuse the phrase "get involved," but I can't emphasize enough how true it is. I am an introvert, so getting involved was not at the top of my list when I got to college. But now I have endless memories with my sisters.
Coming to college, what is something that you have had to learn to do differently?
Managing my time with school and daily household chores such as cleaning, cooking and laundry. In high school, I only had to balance school, extracurriculars and a social life. However, I now have to balance household chores, school, work, extracurriculars, my social life and so much more. Each semester, as my work and class schedules change, I find a new routine that works for me so I can get everything done but still have time to myself.
What do you do to relax or recharge?
I like to do things I personally enjoy. This can include working out, sleeping, watching Netflix, or cleaning and organizing my apartment.
Is there anything else you'd like to share about your NIU Huskie story?
I still have two more semesters, so I am excited to see what this last year will bring!