On Accepting PaCE at Your Own Pace

Two years ago, I got accepted into the University of Florida. It was my first choice and I had been anxiously anticipating the day that decisions would come out. I remember my friends and I planned the whole UF acceptance day where we planned to do fun things after school to distract ourselves until the decisions were out. I still remember my heart pounding as I looked up at the dinner table and saw my friend nodding no as she looked up from her phone. Decisions were out. I forced myself to just look at my email and get it over with.

The worry and anxiety that I was feeling within would only be subsided if I pressed one button. Once I saw the word “Congratulations!” I breathed a sigh of relief and was overcome with happiness. I had done it! All my hard work throughout high school, staying after school for hours for club meetings and over extending myself at times had paid off. I decided to look at the email again and read the rest of it. That’s when I read further and saw that I had gotten accepted into the University of Florida, but through the PaCE program. I had no idea what this program was or that it was even an option.

After falling into a google search frenzy trying to figure out what getting into PaCE meant, I was even more confused and disillusioned. I felt as if I was not good enough to get into UF the traditional way and this is why I had gotten in through PaCE. In one second, all my ideas about what my college experience was going to look like had completely disappeared. 

I cannot tell you how long I looked online for first person student accounts of what this program was truly like or if it was worth it in their eyes. It was difficult to find anything that I felt would help me decide what to do. I had an idea of what college was going to be like in my head for a while, and I was nervous but overly excited. My idea of what college would be did not include taking all online classes until I reached sixty credits.

Since I couldn’t find the answers I wanted online, I decided to come up to Gainesville for “Florida Days.” “Florida Days” is a day for accepted UF students to come to the university and decide if it would be the right fit. I figured that I would get straightforward answers in person and that once I was here in real life, it would help me decide if the PaCE program was the right fit for me. 

There were some restrictions and limitations that came with the PaCE program. There was a limited list of majors that I could choose from, I couldn’t live on campus and if I wanted to use the gym on campus, I would have to opt in. However, after looking at these limitations in greater detail, I realized that these small “roadblocks” wouldn’t truly have an impact on my college experience or myself.

The major I wanted was actually on this limited list, I found an off-campus dorm that was still within walking distance of the campus and I even paid an opt in fee so I could take any gym class I wanted. I would still get the college experience that I had imagined in my head. I know some people may say that paying so much money to move away for college is a waste; however, after two years away at school, I can say that going away for college is a life experience that is 100 percent worth it if you can afford it. Also, being in PaCE my first year at UF did not in any way negatively impact my college experience. 

Through my endless googling during this time in my life I found out about some off- campus dorms near campus. So even I couldn’t live on campus because of PaCe, I still got the traditional dorming experience I wanted to get out of my freshman year. I still got to share one small, shoebox-style room and bathroom just as I would have had to on campus. The root of my fears about PaCE had to do with feeling like I would be singled out and looked down on by other students for not getting into UF the “traditional” way.

On the surface, I was worried about missing out on dorming and making friends in my classes. But in actuality, what bothered me most about getting in through the PaCE program was that it played into my own insecurities and fears that I wasn’t good enough to go to this school. Every insecurity and worry I had derived directly from me. It was all in my head. One thing I found out at “Florida Days” that made me feel better and helped to alleviate my insecurities was the fact that a lady who worked at UF and closely with PaCE told me that to get placed in PaCE you first had to get accepted into the university traditionally.

I looked at all the credits that I would be bringing with me into college from classes I had taken in high school, and I realized that I could actually finish PaCE in about a year instead of the two it would usually take. I knew I couldn’t afford to go to any of the schools I had gotten into out of state, and UF was the only place I truly wanted to go in state. I had found out that when I graduated, my diploma would not look any different than that of somebody who got in the traditional way and started taking classes in person their first semester here. All of these factors finally convinced me.

A diploma from the University of Florida to me was worth putting in some time in online classes. I still got to rush a sorority, live up here in Gainesville and experience all of the amazing and horrible things that make up one’s freshmen year of college. And no one made me feel less than for being in PaCE. Honestly, nobody even knew I was in PaCE unless I actually told them. I think that the reason it took me awhile to become “OK” with PaCE was my ego. I had this idea that I was not good enough to go to school here when, in reality, there is just not enough physical room on this campus to fit everyone. This is why PaCE was created in the first place. 

It’s hard to make a decision that will impact the next four years of your life. I am a very indecisive person that loves to overthink so deciding what school would be best for me was extremely difficult. But, I let my gut feeling dictate my decision. I had already made an abnormal amount of pro and con lists and I still wasn’t sure which college was the one for me.

In the end, I sat back and just picked what felt right. I remembered sitting in the stadium during one of my first visits to this school and looking over to my mom and saying, “This is it. This is where I am going to go to school.” Even though getting in through the PaCE program is not something that I ever thought about as an option when I initially applied, I can now proudly say I attend the best school in Florida, and I am forever grateful.