Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo

Next semester marks the beginning of my senior year of college. I am graduating a semester early, and with my impending departure comes waves of nostalgia and reminiscing. Maybe I’m getting too old and emotional. Or, maybe I’ve actually found pride in my time at Hofstra. Here’s a hint: it’s the latter. 

Photo credit of author. 

When I began Hofstra, I resisted the school wholeheartedly. This was in large part because I simply did not want to be there in the first place. I based my perception of Hofstra solely off of the ranking that appeared online after a basic Google search. With this elitist mentality, I walked into classes believing that I was better and smarter than everyone else there. I spent hours fantasizing about my hyopthetical college career at NYU, where I had also been accepted. I was in disbelief that I had not ended up at an Ivy League insitute or another similarly-respected school. It was engrained in me that successful students went to Ivies. It was engrained in me that my SAT score was the most important representation of me as a student. It was engrained in me that my GPA definied the entirety of my public education experience. In my freshman year, I had to grapple with the dissolution of all that I had learned about college from prep books and online forums. My parents witnessed breakdown after breakdown as I sobbed about Hofstra not fitting me. In all actuality, I was not fitting Hofstra.

As I have previously written, the drama department at Hofstra did not work for me. I struggled to engage myself in the classes, and I went back to my dorm everyday feeling frustrated instead of fulfilled. When I sought help from professors in the department, I was told that most students doubted themselves freshman year. I would just have to wait it out until sophomore year when the classes “picked up.” This response made my attempts to incorporate myself into the Hofstra drama department more difficult. I knew that I loved theater, but this love was rapidly seeping out of my body. I felt helpless in the passivity. After another breakdown on my part, an adjunct acting professor finally told me that while I was doing really well in his class, I was obviously not enjoying myself. He encouraged me to switch my major because it was clear that I hated what I was currently doing, making him the first professor who told me to take an active role in determining my educational experience. 

I decided to look at my sophomore year of college as a redo. Most importantly though, I chose to mend my relationship with Hofstra. Once I stopped seeing Hofstra as a subpar school, I began to appreciate the intellectual minds and opporunties that the university housed. I began to understand how school rankings were based off of statistics, not the emotional experience of students, not the clubs, classroom discussions, or student-professor relationships. The rankings that I had obsessed over offered a single interpretation of what makes a university effective.

During my freshman year, I only participated in things that were affiliated with the drama department. I had not actually explored what else Hofstra had to offer. I joined four new clubs in September, none of which had to do with theater. I also stopped attending all of the shows on campus. I needed to separate myself from the classrooms and people that had seen me crumble. I actively integrated myself into the entirety of the Hofstra community to see what I could do. Instead of focusing on criticisms of the university, I took active steps to address solutions to these criticisms. I also finally acknowledged things that I loved about Hofstra. The true “ah-ha” moment was my participation in the live coverage of the 2018 midterms. In that single night, I watched Hofstra students excell in their craft of political science and communications. 

Participating in the live coverage of the 2018 midterm elections. Photo Credit of Margaret Hart. 

I became a fellow at the Center for Civic Engagement (CCE) so that I could run programs on campus to start dialogues that I thought were lacking. I just co-moderated my first panel on Indigenous People’s Day about dismantling the romanticization and idealization of Christopher Columbus. As part of the CCE fellowship, I connected with the surrounding towns of Uniondale and Hempstead. I now work with the Greater Uniondale Area Action Coalition, a grassroots organization that works to unite and improve the hamlet of Uniondale. Through CCE, I feel like a citizen of Long Island. My college town is not longer a semipermanent location but rather a home for the timebeing.

Co-moderating the panel. Photo credit of Isabella Burkhardt

I also joined Her Campus and subsequently found my non-academic voice. I needed this outlet to build my identity outside of my history major. I refused to be defined by my area of study as I previously had been in the drama department. Her Campus provided me with the opportunity to break from my thesis papers and primary sources to write about myself, which I had never done before. In addition, I am president of the History Club on campus. I now lead the meetings of the first club that truly welcomed me and showed me kids like myself. I get to present once a week on the most obscure and left-field areas of history. I absolutely love it and consider my presentation on the history of potatoes to be the peak of my academic career so far. 

My History Club friends! Photo credit of author. 

When the college bribery scandal broke and it was revealed that rich parents had paid tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of dollars to ensure that their children could go to top universities, I took a collective sigh with the rest of America and scoffed at the elite obsession with private colleges. I realized my hypocrisy only moments later.

I carried out my college process with a personal fixation on rankings and prestige. Because I wanted to major in drama, I chose schools with the top BFA acting programs in the country. It didn’t matter if their acceptance rate was less than 1% (Carnegie Mellon), or if their average cost of schooling after scholarships averaged at $50,000 a year (NYU). I wanted to go to a school that was consistently placed in the top 10 of every list on every website and in every college guidebook. Like Felicity Huffman, Lori Loughlin, and the dozens of unnamed parents, I thought that the only way to succeed was to go to a university that was known as the best of the best.

College is what you make of it. I wish someone had told this to these parents. I wish someone had told this to me. Going to a state college or lower-ranked private school does not negate success in life, nor do online rankings mean anything. Now that I’ve made a place for myself at Hofstra, I feel so lucky to have gone to this school. I have pride in the institution that will be listed on my undergraduate diploma. 

Becca Lo Presti is a junior at Hofstra University, where she is pursuing a BA in History with minors in Art History and French. She interns at the Nassau County Museum of Art and is also an on-campus Fellow at the Center for Civic Engagement. Huge fan of podcasts, dislikes the fact that she had to start drinking coffee this semester.
Similar Reads👯‍♀️