Why I Didn't Go to a "Better School"

It’s been over a year since I first stepped foot on to the University of Central Florida and began my college journey. A year that has been full of laughter, late nights and many one-dollar ice cream cones. A year that I can wholeheartedly say has been one of the best. But as the saying goes, there can’t be a rainbow without a little rain. 

When college decision season rolled around, I watched my classmates flutter about with worry, questioning whether the essays they wrote and the several schools they selected would prove fruitful in the upcoming weeks. I, however, was devoid of that bubbling anxiety. I had known for a long time that UCF was my school of choice.

Now you may be thinking, “Well then, what’s the problem?” And at the time, nothing was wrong, but after a handful of people had asked me where I would be going to school my dilemma quickly made itself known. After telling people I would be attending UCF, their confused faces would morph to a polite smile and nod before they would say one of two things: “Oh, that’s … cool,” or “Really? UCF? I thought you would go to a better school.” 

Obviously, there were plenty of people who were just as happy as I was, but there was no denying the former definitely outweighed the latter. For a while, I struggled to understand what was so confusing about my choice. Why was it that people felt as though I was settling for less? Sure, I would have loved to go to an out of state university, but that desire was asking for more than I had to give. Without a serious amount of scholarship money or some significant loans, I would never be able to afford to go to any school outside Florida. I don’t think I could ever convince myself that taking out thousands of dollars in loans and putting myself in crippling debt for the rest of my life would be worth going to one of those well-known out of state schools. It didn’t make sense—especially not to 18-year-old me who didn’t, and still doesn't know what she wants out of life. And sure, I'm smart, but not the full-ride scholarship kind of smart

By no means am I trying to chastise people who go out of state and do everything in their power to go to their dream school, but why is it suddenly an issue when that dream school is closer to home? There’s become a rather large stigma around attending a community college near home or a university that doesn’t have the most recognizable name. The school you attend doesn’t justify your worth or your work ethic. It’s about the experiences and opportunities you grab ahold of during those wild four years that will really shape the years to come. 

So, I guess what I’m trying to say here is that just because someone’s choice doesn’t seem like the best in your eyes, doesn’t mean it’s not the best in theirs. I can’t lie, sometimes I wonder what my life would be like if I hadn’t gone to UCF, but this place has become my rainbow after the rain. Why bother worrying about the "what ifs" when I have so much to look forward to right in front of me?

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