From a student’s perspective: How families can help with the college search


Purdue freshman and billiards champion credits parents for helping her envision a big future

Doesn’t every parent wonder — amid the hard day-to-day work of helping kids cultivate dreams and passions, fighting homework battles and putting in countless driving hours to practices and competitions — will it ever pay off?

At 18, Aryana Lynch says yes — it does.

Her story starts with a pool table.

Nurturing a champion

Aryana’s parents, engineers Jyoti and Brian Lynch, met in college in Rolla, Missouri, and passed their time together by playing pool. Several years and two daughters later, they moved to a home in Texas with a game room and a pool table. They bought a couple child-sized cues for Aryana and her little sister so they could join the fun, but the game became more than a family activity for little Aryana. Before she knew it, she was playing round after round with her dad, who allowed her to take four turns for every one of his.

Then she was only allowed three. Then two. Then, when Aryana was 11, her dad realized it was time to put her in a junior league because he was getting eclipsed by his preteen.

“I just played for fun up to age 10,” Aryana says. “Once Dad put me in the junior league, I was so scared. I thought, I don’t know if I’m good enough. But once I went and I saw that I am good enough, I realized I can actually compete.”

That same year, she started in national tournaments and walked away with a second-place finish in the American Poolplayers Association (APA) Junior National Championships Junior/Adult Tournament.

Aryana at the 2021 World Junior 9-Ball Championship in Austria, where she placed fifth in the world.

Dominating the game

Suddenly, the spark of passion she had for the game was a full blaze.

At age 12, she’d landed her first national sponsorship. By 14, she was playing for Team USA in Russia at the Junior World 9-ball Championships, brought home four first-place championship wins — one state, two national and one world — and broke a national record in the process.

By the time she was a junior in high school, she’d racked up nine more tournament titles, two more national sponsorships, a national tournament MVP award, spots in two more international tournaments, invites to several exclusive world tournaments and countless other awards.

Aryana was the winner at the 2021 Junior International Championships.

And she’s not done — not even close.

“They’ve been trying for a while to add billiards as a sport in the Olympics,” she says. “I think it’ll eventually be added, and when it is, I definitely want to work hard to be able to play in it — just play in it! That would be my next goal.”

Like her Olympic dreams, Aryana’s goals for college and beyond have always been just as big.

Finding the right college for her

As a first-year engineering student at Purdue, Aryana looks back at her college search process and notes that, as someone looking for engineering programs, it was helpful to have two engineers in the family.

“When I was looking for colleges, I looked with my parents,” she says. “We were deciding together.”

One item in particular made Purdue stand out to her.

“We wanted a school that was great for women in engineering specifically, because at the school Mom went to, there were only about five women engineers,” she says.

So, just as the family did when Aryana was 11 years old and they opened the door for her into a new level of billiards, the family pulled together and immersed themselves in the work of helping her make one of her biggest decisions yet.

They sat down with her to discuss pros and cons of colleges that came up in their web searches. They came along on college visits. They helped break the application process into smaller steps and organize a plan.

“When I was applying, it was very stressful; I was overloaded with work and my mom helped me in all the ways possible,” she says. “I never felt like they were saying ‘you need to go to this school’ or ‘you need to be this.’ It was never forced. It was more just helping me as I went along instead of telling me which way to go.”

It was never forced. They were more just helping me as I went along, instead of telling me which way to go.

Aryana Lynch Engineering, Class of 2025

Becoming a Boilermaker

Aryana believes that the main component in helping her make the final decision was the campus visit. And while she did have her favorite moments in the tour — the Bell Tower! The Purdue Mall Fountain! — one thing stood out to her mom, and once it was pointed out, Aryana couldn’t unsee it, and felt like it was unique to Purdue.

“What my mom liked the most about walking around was that everyone’s wearing Purdue gear, every day. There was no game coming up. People are proud to be here, to wear their stuff,” she says. “Everyone just looked happy. People were friendly to us. No one looked like they were having a bad time. All that definitely helped me choose Purdue.”

So, Aryana decided — she would be a Boilermaker.

To those parents of students who are currently knee-deep in their college search, she wants to share what her parents did that worked for her.

“Just constant support,” she says. “Helping to form an organized plan. Even though the student may not like you pushing them, keeping them on track helps. My mom would tell me things like, ‘By this weekend, you need to have this essay done.’ I was done early, and I had time for my essay to be read over because I kept myself on a track with small goals to complete a larger, overall goal. I think a parent can help with that specifically — reminders!”

And now, those highly developed skills of character her parents helped her hone as a young pool player are paying dividends in her academics.

“Here, especially in engineering, they do not want you to feel unchallenged,” she says, laughing. “They do not take it easy on you! And I like feeling challenged; I like accomplishing things.

“I think my experience here is having to do it all over again. Having to not be the best at something, having to work hard to try to get better. But, like in pool, I realize I don’t have to be the best. I just have to try to do the best that I possibly can.”