When Noah Britton thinks about starting college in a city hundreds of times bigger than his northeast Georgia hometown, he admits he’s “mildly terrified.” So he’s been preparing for that leap of faith by taking a few leaps of the literal variety.
“This summer was the first time I’ve done it,” says Britton, an avid hiker who’s hit at least 15 different trails over the summer. “We’d get to some of the waterfalls, and if it was deep enough at the bottom, we’d dive in. I love the adrenaline rush, and it kind of helped me get ready for college. I told myself that if I could jump 50 feet off a waterfall, I could handle whatever life throws at me.”
Fortunately, Britton will have the resources of the Honors College and the Presidential Scholarship behind him as he begins classes this fall. Even before he got the scholarship, though, he says a “gut feeling” pointed him to Georgia State — and it hasn’t been wrong yet.
Facing Challenges, Going with His Gut
For one thing, Britton has never been the type of person to shy away from a challenge. His senior year alone, he took five advanced-placement classes. “Even though it was a lot of hard work,” he says, “having the relationships with the other students and the teachers that I did was fun. That kept it light and interesting. It was totally worth it.”
His favorite class was AP literature, where he says his teacher, Rhea Galati, helped him become not just a better writer but a better reader, even a better moviegoer. “Reading and watching movies kind of go hand in hand sometimes,” Britton says. “I don’t watch movies just to watch them now — our teachers have gotten us in the habit of analyzing them. I like to see the intricacies and how they do characterization and plot. That kind of helps me as a writer, looking at things like that.”
While he handled the challenge of a rigorous AP schedule, though, the challenge of picking a college turned out to be even more intense.
“I always thought I’d want to go to a big school out of state,” Britton says. “Senior year, I thought I would know everything there is to know about college — I would have my mind made up about where to go, and I would have a game plan. So halfway through senior year, I still have no idea what’s going on.
“I always knew, though, that once I figured out what school I wanted to go to, I would know. I would have a gut feeling, and there’d be no doubt in my mind.”
When he re-examined Georgia State, Britton says he got the exact “gut feeling” he was looking for. “I knew I definitely wanted to be in the Honors College,” he says. “That’s one of the things that attracted me to the school, because even though it’s a large school, you can still get that close-knit community feeling in the Honors College.”
When he finally got the call about the Presidential Scholarship, Britton says the moment “couldn’t have been any more perfect.”
“I was actually in Dr. Galati’s class,” he recalls. “I’d gotten a voicemail from Dean Berman in my AP calculus class, so I told her I had to call him back, and she said, ‘You go run for the hills, do what you gotta do.’ I went out in the hallway and called him back, and I bent down so I could see her through the window in the classroom door and I gave her the thumbs-up. Everyone in my class started cheering, you could hear it out in the hallway. All of my best friends were in that class, so I got to share it with some of the people I love the most.”
‘So Many People with So Many Different Stories’
To Britton, relationships matter, and he says that’s the part of the Georgia State experience that has him the most excited.
“In my interviews for colleges and scholarships and that sort of thing, people ask you what your greatest accomplishments are. Every time, I say that mine are my friendships,” he says. “They’re a little bit different from even your family relationships, because these are the people who make a conscious decision to be part of your life and invest in you. Being in the city, with all of its diversity, I’m going to invest in people, and they’re going to invest in me, in all kinds of different ways. I’m going to meet so many people with so many different stories, and I’ll get to make relationships that I’ll hold on to for the rest of my life.”
Stories are important for someone like Britton, who plans on majoring in English with the hopes of becoming a writer. He says he’s also looking forward to the opportunities for internships and hands-on experiences at Georgia State, where he’ll get to put his love of writing to good use.
“I think the fun part of going to college is figuring out how I want to apply that,” he says. “I could see myself working for a magazine or something, where I could write longer feature stories. And honestly, I would love to write a book someday.”
Britton says he’s “always wanted to write,” but the book that really inspired him to take it to a higher level was Beloved, the Toni Morrison novel about escaped slaves that won the Pulitzer Prize in 1988.
“I love authors who address things that we don’t normally talk about,” he explains. “In my AP lit class, we had to do a big ‘question project,’ which was actually why I read the book. For my question, I did ‘What are we afraid to hear?’ — things that are taboo or not directly addressed in society. I just really like authors who write with a purpose and write fearlessly.”