Being a student at Penn State is like being a part of another culture completely. It’s a whole new identity. A lot of people knew they wanted to go to Penn State their entire lives. I didn’t know until I started applying to colleges.
The application process is a struggle, even if you think you know where you want to go. That probably makes applying even harder. It creates a lot of anxiety, because you worry that you won’t get in or whether you’re making the right choice.
My sister went to James Madison University, and I loved the Marching Royal Dukes. I knew all of high school that I wanted to go to JMU.
My first time on campus was for a football game. It isn’t a very big college football stadium, but it makes the environment really intimate. From a seat in the student section, you can basically get a breathtaking view of the entire campus. You can turn to see the red-roof buildings right next to the stadium and look ahead and find the Blue Ridge Mountains peaking over the lights.
I went there for a performance with the marching band, and it scaled down the campus even more for me when I stepped on the field. JMU loves their Marching Royal Dukes. They were screaming so loud for them and jumping around in the stands. As I stood on the sidelines waiting for my turn to perform, I watched as students literally leaned their bodies over the railings to shout to the performers, who even shouted back.
From that moment on, the JMU campus felt like home.
With my mind set, I went into the application process sure of myself. However, even when you’re so sure, everyone around you constantly tries to get their perspective on where you should go. My mom actually wanted me to apply to Harvard. (I said no.)
That’s how I stumbled on Penn State. One of my friends was giving her own opinion about the places I should apply. Her family bleeds blue and white, whether they actually went to PSU or not.
I visited Penn State in the middle of my application process and I fell in love… again.
The students held all of the student pride like JMU, but ten times more. Every student bundled up in Penn State gear, and some shouted “we are” as my tour group passed. The feeling on campus is lighthearted, but full of life — even when it’s almost 0 degrees Fahrenheit.
The campus is very diverse too, especially for someone coming from rural Virginia. On a regular walk to class, you’ll walk past people speaking different languages. It’s fascinating.
My mind changed so quickly with just a simple trip to campus. Penn State is an incredible place.
The decision process was still stressful, though. I worried a lot. I worried mostly that I would let people down if I decided to go to Penn State. For four years, I talked non-stop about being at JMU and suddenly my mind changed. So, I jumped back and forth a lot between the two schools.
To narrow down my choices, I signed up for an accepted students’ day at Penn State and JMU, hoping that it would force me to pick.
I never even got the chance to go to JMU’s accepted students’ day, because I knew Penn State was the place for me after making the second trip.
The faculty are incredible at Penn State, especially in the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications. They went out of their way to make me feel welcome. Every advisor wants to get to know you on a personal level. When they saw my nametag, they even recognized me from my application.
They’re all extremely happy to meet new students, too. They recognize the fact that the campus is big, so they try to find ways to make it smaller. The simplest smile and handshake can mean so much, especially as a frightened high school senior.
After attending, I felt confident in my decision. The faculty really give you the opportunity to feel comfortable on campus and express that you have potential. It felt comforting to know that moving so far away from home, I would live in a place that would show unconditional support for me.
It might be tedious, but it takes multiple visits sometimes to figure out the right college. Some people decide that the resources and curriculum are enough for them to decide, but for me, it was that home-away-from-home feeling.
Sometimes I think about what college would have been like for me if I had picked JMU. I know that nothing beats the feeling that Penn State gives me, though, especially when you can’t hear yourself think over the screaming fans in Beaver Stadium during football season.