I’m Attending My Ultimate Rival School

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It was the worst day of my life. Well, actually it was the second worst day. Seriously, I don’t recall rolling out of bed for more than 30 minutes in the span of the whopping five hours I spent awake. I didn’t want to face civilization, and I didn’t think they wanted me to face them either. Or at least not civilization as in the city of Pittsburgh, home to the University of Pittsburgh.

Today marked the day after I withdrew my deposit to attend Pitt—the actual worst day ever.

For the months leading up to the worst day ever, I purchased a closet’s worth of Pitt apparel and added dozens of songs to my eight hour long Spotify playlist titled “Moving to Pittsburgh.” I boasted to my Pittsburgh-native family that I would soon live near them (and also that I scored a super cute Pitt scarf from the university bookstore for only $4).

My entire life consisted of trips to and from Pittsburgh to see my family, and eventually, to see Pitt. I toured Pitt more times than I could keep track, falling more and more in love each time. I didn’t care what they could offer me, and I even compromised my major to consider attending.

I didn’t care because I loved the city too much. Pitt made my wildest childhood dreams of moving from small town to big city feel like a reality. I knew I was destined to go to Pitt. From a young age, I had my heart set on Pitt. Dead set.

Throughout high school, I made sure I worked extra hard. I even missed out on time with friends or practice at the dance studio to lock in the grades I needed to get into Pitt. The 3.9 average GPA intimidated me, but not as much as the price tag that came along with Pitt. Yet, I continued to ignore it, finding ease in my la la land where everyone gets dirt-cheap education.

I even remember the day I got into Pitt. I periodically checked my phone during an AP Microeconomics test. Risking getting my phone confiscated, yet taking the risk in hopes my Pitt portal status would change from “pending” to “accepted.” I had a feeling something would happen on this unusually brisk and eerie September day. And six minutes before the day ended (2:39 to be exact) my portal status updated.

I was accepted into my ultimate dream school, the University of Pittsburgh. I sat in disbelief when I saw my acceptance. Despite my efforts, I still doubted I would get in. Getting into Pitt only confirmed my destiny.

In fact, I decided only hours after my acceptance that I no longer wanted to apply to any other colleges. Even though I previously toured about a dozen other colleges, retook my SATs a dreadful three times to improve my chance of acceptance for Syracuse, it didn’t matter. None of it did. Nothing mattered more than my Pitt acceptance. Pitt was (l)it.

I shortly accepted my admission and prepared to put down my deposit.

“Are you seriously putting down your deposit already?” my parents questioned. They begged and pleaded for me to keep an open mind and to consider a few other options. Clearly Pitt’s price tag scared them, too. But I insisted that I was 100 percent serious. And as the frankly stubborn and ambitious daughter they raised, I impulsively put down the deposit (and updated my Instagram bio to “Pitt ‘22”).

I was officially a Pitt student.

What a relief. But I couldn’t understand why my parents didn’t feel the same way. Why weren’t they more excited when I told them I got accepted? And why did they keep bringing up finances? I already told them I wanted to go into debt to fulfill my dreams.

The next few weeks that followed were, in a sense, awkward. Anytime I mentioned I got another email from Pitt or I made another friend in the Pitt class of 2022 group chat, my parents didn’t radiate the same energy I shared. They pushed back at the mere thought of Pitt. They even suggesting I consider Penn State.

Penn State? Pitt’s biggest rival school? The polar opposite, arch nemesis, greatest evil of Pitt? Absolutely not.

I told them that there was absolutely no way that they could convince me to go to Penn State. Growing up in central Pennsylvania in what I liked to call a “Penn State Cult,” I held a lingering grudge against the school. And my whole life, my parents pushed me to go to Penn State because my dad’s employment there meant a nice tuition discount. But I brushed aside the great opportunity because I couldn’t see past my polluted perception of the school. At the time I considered it NBD to go into an absurd amount of debt over college.

I wanted to stray from my surroundings growing up, trying my hardest to identity as a nonconformist. Going to Penn State compromised all my ideals on conformity. It seemed only natural to dislike Penn State.

But I still lived under my parents’ roof. And they made me visit Penn State again. Another scheduled visit became their last resort, and they hoped I would change my mind. I felt bad. The more I tried to put myself into their position, the worse I felt. I began to understand that they weren’t pushing Penn State to make me upset—they just wanted me to feel happy.

They knew I wouldn’t always stay happy attending a school we simply couldn’t afford, especially when an affordable (and probably better) option existed out there. They knew my father worked hard at a job he didn’t always like in a place he didn’t always like to give me the unique opportunity to go to a top-notch college for an affordable price.

I needed to distinguish what my deep down, true dreams were. My dream wasn’t always to go to college. I wanted to write, to travel, to immerse myself into varying cultures and speaking amongst varying backgrounds of people. College was—and still is—only a stepping stone to the my true dreams. And I’m privileged enough to get the opportunity to earn an education at a fair price. This, ultimately, will allow me to fulfill my true dreams. Not everyone gets so lucky.

So for the third time, we took the two hour drive to Happy Valley and toured campus. And with an open mind and a different perspective, I began to love it. After some discussion and comparing what both colleges offered me, I realized that Penn State truly was always the better option. I put down my deposit to Penn State.

Now I am officially a Nittany Lion.

Kaitlyn Shero

At the end of the day, Penn State isn’t exactly where I want to be. State College isn’t a big city, and it’s relatively close to home. But I accepted these flaws.

It’s not Pitt, but it’s so much more in a different aspect. Penn State’s College of Communication offers a phenomenal program plus endless and unique opportunities. Everyone there seems extremely passionate and welcoming. If the people there ever experienced a similar situation as me, you wouldn’t know because of their overwhelming love and spirit for the school and life.

I hope to eventually love Penn State as much as them, because I now realize that I am so blessed to even walk on a college campus as a student.

Sometimes, actually most times, life doesn’t always turn out how you envision, or take you where you think you wanted to go. Or life throws you a curveball you never expected. Or you don’t always get what you want. But, I believe that a plan exists for every individual, and a purpose lies behind every place life takes them. And as cheesy as it sounds, it’s not about where you are or what situation you find yourself in. Your attitude and what you make out of it matters more.

I am thankful I eventually opened my mind and stepped out of my comfort zone because now I feel excited about going to college. And no matter where I end up, and I will take full advantage of my educational opportunity to lift myself and others.

No hard feelings, Pitt.

Katy is a first year student at Penn State. She is a double major in broadcast journalism and meteorology. She enjoys ballet, hiking, working out, writing and all things kittens.

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