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Life as a Retired PACE Student

From my first Halloween costume as a UF cheerleader, to my summer at the CJC Media Institute in high school, the University of Florida had always been the dream.

For starters, my two gator parents raised me bleeding orange and blue.

And as I began to discover my passions, I realized UF had an excellent journalism program that could take me where I wanted to go.

Out of the 14 (excessive, I know) schools that I applied to, the University of Florida undoubtedly held the number one spot. 

It was a Friday night in February when acceptance letters (re: emails) arrived.

I was at rehearsals with friends. They urged me to open it, but I waited until I was in the comfort of my own home. 

I always prepare for the worst, that way I’m never surprised. And in this case, my thought process was that I either get accepted or denied. But then the unexpected happened. 

As I scrolled down to the email and opened it, I was immediately taken on a rollercoaster of emotions.

My eyes immediately latched onto the “CONGRATULATIONS” header. Ecstatic, I continued to read. This is when my joy quickly morphed into confusion. 

“You’ve been accepted into the PACE Online Program.” 

I had never been more torn in my life. Students in PACE start college taking only online courses, and later transition into in-person courses in Gainesville.

Being a relatively new program, UF’s original PACE candidates had just then graduated. Besides this comforting piece of information, there were virtually no resources to aid me in decision-making. 

Since I decided to go down this online path, a lot of PACE students have been comfortable sharing their stories and advice. 

A lot of them were well-versed in online classes due to Florida Virtual School courses, and many came into UF with a hefty amount of credits.

Both of these things surely made their transition from online classes to on campus quick. 

But I came into UF never having touched an online class and with minimal credits. I was terrified, to say the least. At the end of my senior year I decided to take the leap of faith and hope that I was capable of being an online student for two years. 

One of the most influential factors that made this the right choice for me was my decision to move to Gainesville.

If you have the means to do this, I highly recommend it. Nothing stopped me from joining a sorority, participating in clubs and going to games. I truly felt as a part of UF as anyone else. 

I opted in to the package offered to online students, giving me access to all on campus amenities. I was able to go the libraries, familiarize myself with Weimer Hall and overall develop a connection with the college town. 

I’m also here to tell you, nobody cares. I was afraid of being viewed as a second-class gator, but I’ve honestly never experienced this here. 

The web platform CANVAS makes it easy to manage online classes. Resources, assignments and tests are easily accessible. Even after you transition to in-person courses, CANVAS is still a foundational platform. 

I never considered myself as tech-savvy, but mastering the PACE world took me practically no time at all.

I roomed with a few PACE girls my freshman year. On the first day of school, we all sat around our kitchen table, terrified to open our laptops.

After an hour of sifting through syllabuses and ordering textbooks, we looked at each other and unanimously agreed that this wasn’t going to be bad at all. 

And we were right! Not only have I successfully transitioned onto campus, I ended up doing it early. 

If being a gator is your dream, and PACE is the determining factor, I encourage you to take the leap of faith. I can’t imagine what my life would be like if I hadn’t. 


Madeline is a second-year Journalism major at the University of Florida. She loves rainy days, trips that revitalize your soul, and speaking up for what she believes in. She strives to use her voice as a catalyst for conversations about the female college experience and equality for all. See more of her life on Instagram: @maduhlinemurphy & more of her work at: www.madelinenmurphy.com
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