My college application process was overwhelmed with feelings of fear, excitement, joy, and doubt all at once. I was worried about financial aid prospects, whether or not I’d get into my top colleges, and how I would adjust to moving away from home, among other things. And while my college experience has been a truly interesting journey, all of the things that once made me nervous about college have now subsided because I know I’m at the right place.
While it wasn’t always apparent to me that Penn was going to be the place for me, it was always in the back of my mind. Growing up in Philadelphia meant that Penn was always in the periphery. Whether it was my older friends in high school going to Penn, having friends whose parents worked or attended Penn, or the awesome programs Penn put together to guide local students through the college admissions process, I always saw Penn as an option, but I wasn’t quite sure it was a feasible one. I continually doubted whether or not I was smart enough to get in or if it was a viable financial option for my family, but once I did some more research and soul searching my senior year, I quickly realized that there was no other place for me.
Penn’s financial aid system meant that there was no reason to worry about finances for me or my family. With lots of work-study opportunities and a fully grant-based financial aid system, my fears were easily assuaged. It took some research to debunk the myth that Penn would be more expensive because it’s a private university, but there were lots of accessible resources available, like the financial aid calculator and all the information on Student Financial Services’ website. Additionally, I was and still am really lucky to have people at Student Financial Services who were willing to answer all my questions about financial aid.
While financial aid was a really important part of choosing a college, another element to that choice was how far away I’d be from home. As senior year sped up, I realized how important it would be for me to be able to see my family regularly. While I could easily deal with being apart from them for extended periods of time, I wondered how I’d be able to cope without an unconditional support system nearby during one of the most momentous periods of my life.
On the other hand, the other schools I applied to were all much further from home than Penn. Penn was the only Philadelphia-area school I even considered because it felt like nothing else in the area would be as good of a fit. The schools were a mixture of public and private, with some of the more selective schools offering comparable resources and financial aid, but they were all much further from Philadelphia than I cared to be, especially considering the transition that was freshman year. While I was interested in the schools from my list that had accepted me, there was only one school on the list that was close to home, gave great financial aid, and had great resources. It just felt right.
When I got my acceptance to Penn in March of my senior year, I was instantly relieved. Financial aid worked out and I’d get the best possible education along the way. Because I stayed in Philly for college, I’d be going in with a bunch of friendly faces, and there’s nothing like catching up with an old friend after a long and exhausting day.
Going to Penn also meant not having to stress about being too far from home. I’d be able to see my family whenever I want, which really helped during the transition into college life. My parents and brother are my biggest supporters, and hanging out with them always serves as a great way to recharge, unwind, and take a break from the dramas that sometimes accompany young friendships. It also doesn’t hurt that I have access to home-cooked meals every now and then!
All of the friends and family I get to interact with while going to school in my favorite city and my hometown make Penn an even more amazing place to be. The growth I’ve experienced as a person and a scholar are so much more worth it to me when I get to have my biggest supporters close to me.