Reflecting on my Path

By Jelani Hayes on September 02, 2013
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Sometimes I wake up, and I think, “Thank you God for blessing me to be here.”

I am so very happy to be a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania, an Ivy League school located in West Philadelphia. Penn is such an amazing place. I am surrounded by so much intellectual vitality, wisdom and resources to help me change the world. I did not know I would be this happy here, but it has been a very pleasant surprise.

Throughout high school, I knew I wanted to go to a prestigious university, but Penn never crossed my mind. I knew very little about the school until I actually decided to apply, which was a spur of the moment idea in itself.

Fortunately, Penn’s admissions knew that Penn and me was a perfect match. After applying, I received a likely letter from Penn, which was an early notification of acceptance.

I was thrilled. I had been accepted into a school that was tied with Stanford at number five on the U.S. News rankings. The timing of my acceptance gave me an extra month to consider Penn.

But rankings are not everything. I needed to make sure that I was going to be happy there and that my education there was going to be a good investment.

After visiting the school in early April, doing my fair share of research and factoring in the generous financial aid I received, I decided Penn was the best school for me out of the ones I had been admitted into.

Concerns never came true

Of course, you cannot really be sure if a college is the right “fit” until you are actually a student there. I admittedly had my doubts entering college. I was worried about the social aspects. I had heard racism was a problem on campus. I knew that most of the students were wealthier than I was.

I was going to be thousands of miles from home. There was simply a lot to worry about. But I decided that I was attending Penn to receive a great education, not to shelter myself from the real world, which Penn, fortunately, does not do.

At almost the end of my first semester, I can honestly say that none of my fears were necessary. My friends here at Penn come from all over the country and all over the world. We have different values and socio-economic statuses, but at the end of the day they are my friends.

In the academic realm, Penn has offered me an almost unparalleled opportunity to dive into just about any intellectual pursuit. I have opportunities to do research, get involved in student organizations, do community service and study abroad.

College was right for me

My experience at Penn is, of course, unique to Penn. I had always planned on going to college and living on campus before I knew where I wanted to go. I wanted to go to college first because it was the only way I could become a lawyer some day and, second, because I love learning and I knew I would not be done inquiring about the world around me after I graduated from high school.

I am aware that you do not need a college education to learn about any subject matter, but I knew college was the best place for me to be. The college environment prompts you to explore topics you may have never considered before.

The difficulty of college has pushed my work ethic beyond what I previously perceived as its limits. I have been forced to think outside of the box and challenge myself to adapt to new situations.

In my family, college was never really an option, but when I decided to aim high and apply to Penn, I had little knowledge of what my experience would actually be like. I knew I wanted a challenge, I knew I wanted a new environment, I knew I wanted to quench my intellectual thirst and I knew I wanted to be surrounded by people who wanted the same things as I did out of their early adult years.

College was thus the best option for me and I have no regrets.

About the Author

Jelani Hayes

Jelani Hayes

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