When I was younger, my friends and I used to play college. We would get notebooks, pretend to write in fancy cursive writing (which ended up just being scribbles), and roll our eyes and complain about ‘class’. It seemed like such a distant part of my life, but at the same time it was cool and compelling. College had seemed much more interesting than elementary school, middle school, and high school. For some reason, although we could not comprehend how different college actually would be compared to the rest of our educational lives, it always had an alluring appeal.
When I was in high school, I kept telling myself that I was working towards getting into a good college. High school was not something that I was ever fond of, and I had hopes that the future would be optimistic. I worked really hard in my classes, I participated in clubs, and I played sports, hoping it would secure me a spot in my dream college. However, when people asked me where I wanted to go, I had no idea. Up until the last minute, college did not seem real to me; it was a future, it was an idea, it was something I’d think about when the time came. And maybe that’s why being at Rutgers still feels so surreal to me.
If you told me one year ago I’d be going to Rutgers, I would not have believed you. As a New Jersey resident, I was so desensitized to the idea of Rutgers that it had not even been on my radar. In my hometown, everyone knew about the college because it felt like everyone went there. In parking lots, there always seemed to be at least one giant R sticker. At my high school, people always wore Rutgers sweatshirts. I hadn’t looked into Rutgers because I felt like that was where everybody went; I felt like if I attended Rutgers, I’d be setting myself up for high school 2.0. When people told me to apply to Rutgers, I would roll my eyes and say “I’ll think about it”. But I was very wrong to sell the school so short.
Upon my search for colleges, I was mainly looking into small private schools. My list included schools such as Pace University (where I thought I’d be going for the longest time), Seton Hall, Fairleigh Dickinson, and so on. They were all pretty close to home, and were similar in size. However, after touring each of these schools, I never felt connected to any of them.
First of all, the Westchester campus of Pace University had a population of a little more than 2,000 people. There was no football team, the campus was extremely small, and the main building looked to be about the size of my high school. I had really liked their freshman dorms because they were brand new and beautiful, but that had been about it. The surrounding area seemed quaint and quiet, and there was one giant pond that was kind of pretty.
At the time, Pace was financially the best decision for me and also the best program for me because they gave me a great scholarship. But I was severely unhappy. I did not love Pace, I did not feel a connection with the people, I did not love the atmosphere. Going to Pace felt like I was settling. And after four years of hard work, that was the last thing I wanted to.
That is also how I felt with Fairleigh Dickinson, and so on. I thought Seton Hall was beautiful, but it was way too much money for what it was offering. In the college admissions process I felt lost, confused, and unhappy because nothing seemed to click with me… until I got accepted to Rutgers.
Touring Rutgers excited me. Despite what people would say about the school and how “it’s too close to home” and “everyone goes there”, my mother had convinced me to apply and I was accepted. Upon visiting the school, the first thing I noticed was how much pride they had in their community. Scarlet was everywhere, and at my initial tour they even had ‘R’ cookies which I honestly found to be downright amazing. Exploring the campus gave me a feeling of hope that maybe there was a place I could fall in love with and call my new home someday.
The presentation slides proved that the college was impressive. Attending here would not be a walk in the park, although that was what everyone back at home made it seem like. In fact, the woman speaking to us had even warned that if you thought this school was going to be easy, then you were in for a pleasant surprise (and I can back up this statement now that I’m halfway through my first semester). As she went into statistics and discussed the educational elements, as well as their internship and career opportunities, I was comfortable that Rutgers would be able to prepare me for my future as an adult.
Beyond the education part, some of the great things about Rutgers is that it literally offers every type of atmosphere, has an upbeat community, and always has something going on. If I wanted to live in a countryish area that would remind me of home, I would have lived on Cook/Douglass. If I wanted to live in a quieter secluded area, I would have lived on Busch. If I wanted a more popular, upbeat region with plenty of fun things to do (such as get frozen yogurt or go to the movies), I would’ve lived on Livingston. And if I wanted something completely out of my comfort zone, I would’ve lived on the loud, urban College Avenue campus (which I currently do live on).
After falling in love with College Avenue, it was easy to begin imagining a life here. As I walked around the campus, I liked how big everything felt. Rutgers did not feel like a small little piece of the earth; it felt like its own giant entity, like it was the world. There were so many students, and even with all of the people walking around my tour guide was still able to recognize and greet friends passing by. You’d think in such a giant school that it’d be easy to get lost in, but even with 40,000 students there were familiar faces.
I really knew Rutgers was the right place for me after orientation. I had already accepted my admission to Rutgers, and my parents had bought me plenty of Rutgers apparel so I could show off my pride. I had pants, shirts, sweatshirts, and I even bought a sticker for my car. I could already hardly contain my excitement to graduate, and attending orientation made the wait for move in day almost unbearable.
Orientation is the first time you’re really thrown into a sneak peak of actual college headfirst–you’re placed in groups and you’re living in the luxury of the Livingston apartments and you’re away from your parents for the first time. It gives you a slight feel of what is to come ahead of you. The orientation leaders are really enthusiastic and the activities after the presentations is fun. I met one of my current best friends at orientation, which made the whole night even more cool because there was someone who I instantly clicked with.
I am more than happy I made my decision to come to Rutgers. If I were able to go back in time, I would have saved myself the stress and money and would have applied to Rutgers in the first place. Now, when I tell people I go to Rutgers and they roll their eyes, I no longer feel offended or bothered because I know how great this place is.
My school may be close to home, but it is very prestigious and well ranked in the country. For the first time in my life I am being faced with educational material that I find challenging, allowing myself the opportunity to grow, learn, and test my abilities. My school offers tutoring centers and extensive help and honestly SO MANY libraries, so I am never at a loss for resources. My school has a football team in the big 10, and we may not be the best, but we are versing the best of the bests which means something. My school has 5 different campuses, which people will act like is a burden but honestly it’s a change in scenery that gives you even more options with what you want to do, whether it’s to go to the gym, seek entertainment, or eat different food. My school has buses that can be a pain, but you get used to it. My school is the powerful color of red. My school has an uncontrollable amount of pride. My school consists of energetic, motivated, and enthusiastic Scarlet Knights, and we are most definitely not something to roll your eyes at.
If you’re not sure where to apply, or if you’re not sure where to go, Rutgers is an easy place to make your home.