Taylorsville • Kaitlynn Lovelady didn’t realize she had applied to the wrong college until she opened her email and saw the acceptance letter.
It said: “Welcome to Salt Lake Community College.”
She said: “Where’s that?”
On Monday, the Louisiana native got her answer firsthand during an all-expenses-paid trip to Utah and a guided tour of the campus by top administrators. She walked through the library, the financial aid office and the basketball arena in Taylorsville. A pack of reporters followed closely behind.
“You’re kind of like a celebrity here,” said Ryker Low, 19, a SLCC student ambassador.
“I guess so,” Lovelady, 21, responded with a thick southern accent. “When I was walking downtown Friday night, some guy stopped me and said, ‘You’re that girl who applied to the wrong college.’ Now that’s what I’m known for.”
The identification still makes her laugh. Lovelady had been sitting in front of her laptop in February, admittedly a little bored, when she typed “business classes SLCC” into Google. She clicked on the first link and applied.
Lovelady, already a senior in business management at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, had wanted to to save money by finishing a few credits over the summer at her local community college — that is, South Louisiana Community College. When she realized the mistaken acronym, she posted about it on Twitter. And it quickly took off.
“I just applied to SLCC for summer class only to realize it’s Salt Lake Community College in SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH instead of SOUTH LOUISIANA COMMUNITY COLLEGE. GOODBYE $40!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” she wrote.
The Utah school said they’d refund her application fee — because apparently the mixup happens often — but some residents here had a little fun with it first. Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox responded that it “might be the best $40 you’ve ever spent.” One woman said, “try Cafe Rio pork and any second guesses you have will disappear.” Others mentioned skiing and fry sauce and the Jazz.
Meanwhile, the SLCC in Louisiana teased “it’s so much warmer here” and “#KeepKaitlynnInLA” trended on social media.
Lovelady, who plans to graduate in fall 2020, hasn’t decided where she’ll go yet. But having the chance to walk around Utah and SLCC’s campus in the rain on Monday did a bit to sway her, she said.
“Gosh, it’s so beautiful here," she said. "I’m kind of sad that I’m leaving.”
She landed in Utah on Friday and ended her trip Monday with the campus tour. In between, she went to the state Capitol, ate a shake “bigger than my head” at Iceberg, walked around Temple Square downtown, saw snow and mountains for the first time at Alta Ski Resort and visited Antelope Island.
“Watch that puddle,” Ryker said as they walked to the Student Center at SLCC under the school’s signature blue umbrellas. “It’s like the Great Salt Lake.”
He couldn’t help pressing Lovelady on how she got through her the college application, though, without realizing which state it was in. “What did you think about the questions asking if you’re a Utah native?” he asked.
“I was oblivious. It was just a little blonde moment.”
Her friend and sorority sister, Brooke Miramon, came with her on the trip and laughed. “Yeah, but that’s pretty bad.”
“Well, there are a lot of blondes in Utah,” comforted Provost Clifton Sanders, who met with the student as part of her tour. He showed her his collection of saxophone paintings in his office and tried to convince her to sign up for classes. Overall, though, the school’s staff has said they’re just glad she’s pursuing an education — whether here or in Louisiana.
“It was cool to see the whole community rally behind her,” said Sarah Reale, who first responded to Lovelady on Twitter and who helped arrange the tour Monday.
If Lovelady came to the SLCC in Utah, she’d pay about $6,000 in tuition per semester as an out-of-state student. That’s about how much she’s already paying at the University of Louisiana.
Salt Lake Community College admissions advisor Salote Brown-Halatoa walked her through the different financial aid packages and scholarships — and about how she could take classes online wherever she wants.
And the textbooks are cheaper. Lovelady spends about $4,000 on books per semester. Most students at SLCC in Utah don’t spend more than $300 because the school rents them out at the library and scans them so they’re available online.
As they walked through the library, one of the tour leaders noted: “Last week, we had a cake competition here.”
Lovelady’s friend turned to her. “So why’d you go to Utah?” Miramon said as a joke.
“Cake, obviously,” Lovelady responded.
She met with the school’s student body leaders, had a private meeting with the business department’s advisor, got a list of the best places to find free food on campus, wore a SLCC backpack and cheered when she heard about the $10 massages offered at the campus’ health center.
She also asked about the school’s bear mascot, which hung on the walls of nearly every building they went in.
“We don’t have one,” Lovelady said about her current school.
“Yes, we do. It’s a cayenne pepper,” Miramon corrected.
“Yeah, but we were rated the worst mascot in America, so don’t talk about it.”
The trip was paid for by an anonymous donor, and it was Lovelady’s first time on a plane and first time outside of Louisiana. She said she was “never expecting it to get this big.”
“I tweeted it to give everyone a laugh,” she noted. “But it was a good mistake. Now I know there are other opportunities for me."