The Different Learning Experiences UF Has to Offer

At the University of Florida, your options for educational experiences are limitless. In this day and age, colleges across the country are offering a larger selection of schooling methods that allow more students from the application pool to be accepted that qualify with the admissions requirements. UF advertises traditional on-campus learning, the Pathway to Campus Enrollment program (PaCE) and the Innovation Academy. All three options allow the school to accept a greater number of exceptional students while balancing ratios to attain a top-five spot among public universities in the nation. To better understand these opportunities, Her Campus UFL sat down with women who are a part of each one.

Traditional on-campus learning

When students fill out an application for the University of Florida, they may select if they are interested in starting during the fall semester or the “Summer B” session. According to UF’s website, classes begin on July 1 and end on August 9 for Summer B 2020. Blinne Buckley, a finance first-year student, started her academic journey as a Gator during Summer B. Buckley grew up as a Gator fan due to the fact that her parents share four degrees from the University of Florida, and she also grew up attending football games in The Swamp. Although Buckley said that she’d be willing to enter UF as a PaCE student, she was accepted as an on-campus first-year student.

“The thing I value most about being a traditional student is taking the exams in person,” Buckley said. “I do not think I would be as successful on exams if I had to take it in my dorm room on my laptop.”

In the same light, Alli Trebbi, another finance first-year student, followed in her father’s footsteps by also attending UF. Trebbi’s father is a double Gator and always teased about Trebbi also attending college in Gainesville. Attending in-person classes taught her about making connections — whether that be with classmates or her professors.

“Having an 8:30 a.m. lab might not seem like the greatest experience, but it gets you up and gets the day started,” Trebbi said. “There really isn’t another way to mimic an in-person interaction, and that’s a huge benefit of traditional learning.”

Although on-campus learning doesn’t allow students to work ahead on their classwork, the face-to-face interactions with peers and professors make up for the rigor involved.

Pathway to Campus Enrollment (PaCE)

Pathway to Campus Enrollment, or PaCE, is a unique program to UF that allows incoming first-year students to begin their bachelor’s degrees online, then transition to on-campus classes for their major. The PaCE program includes 60 majors for students to have a more flexible learning experience. Even if a student selects that he or she is not interested in the program, they may be selected based on their chosen major because of the limited space available on campus. Students in the PaCE program must have 45 incoming credits or less. In addition, they must complete a minimum of two semesters and obtain 60 credit hours before switching to in-person lectures. With the Optional Fee Package, online students have complete access to activities and services, health services, university athletics and transportation. Although, those accepted must either work from home or live off-campus in the Gainesville area. PaCE gives students freedom because they can work at their own speed and live at home if they please. Alexa Palermo, a marketing junior, spent her first and second year of college as a PaCE student.

“You can study on your own time and spend more time on challenging topics you need more time to master,” Palermo said. “Don’t be afraid to speak up for yourself as a PaCE student if you feel like you’re being underutilized or don’t have enough resources.”

Some people may assume that online classes are easier due to the flexibility and privacy of working in your own living space. However, this is not the case because PaCE students are still given firm deadlines, lectures and exams. Many online classes have proctored exams through websites such as ProctorU, which monitor students’ screen activity and watch them take the test through a webcam to prevent cheating. Rachel Peterson, an advertising sophomore, remained in PaCE for only a year due to coming in with a large amount of college credit. Despite having to put yourself out there more as an online Gator, Peterson found a community of peers by getting involved on campus. One of the worries incoming PaCE students may feel is that they won’t feel like a traditional student. It is up to PaCE students to immerse themselves and navigate the campus, but it helps strengthen the online experience.

“It didn’t feel like I was a real student but as time went on, I quickly realized how many other students take online classes,” Peterson said. “I loved being able to go home, hang out, explore someplace new and more without falling behind in my classes.”

PaCE students may struggle more with forming bonds among their peers and professors, but the independence involved while also being a UF student is incomparable.

Innovation Academy

Innovation Academy is a program that operates during the spring and summer terms at the University of Florida. According to the Innovation Academy website, IA was created to assist students in developing real-world skills for an innovative 21st-century society. There are 30 majors that qualify under IA, and students also earn a minor in innovation while participating in this unique program. Not requiring students to be full time during the fall semester allows them to take online classes, study abroad, pursue an internship or even enjoy the semester off at home. Halley Kunda, a political science sophomore, noticed IA on the UF application and wrote a separate essay to be considered for the opportunity. Not only was Kunda accepted into the Innovation Academy, but she has also become an ambassador for the educational program.

“You get a lot of experience with 3D printing and modeling, access to internship opportunities, and learning how to prototype,” Kunda said. “Utilize the living-learning community if you’re living in Beaty Towers because it’s a great place to meet people.”

Innovation Academy Ambassadors speak to prospective families and assist students in the program. Mayson Sages, a business management and public relations first-year student, heard about IA through a friend back home who was previously an ambassador.

“I’ve learned how far my creativity skills can truly go and if you expand it, you can do anything you set your mind to,” Sages said. “It’s a way to gain creative confidence while working as a team.”

Earning an innovation minor draws students in to look into the program because it’s something most students do not have when applying for jobs. This individualized program prepares students for a technology-driven society.

The University of Florida allows students to learn in every way imaginable. Through traditional learning, PaCE or IA, this new round of applicants has many options when deciding if they want to be a member of UF ‘24.