What Students Really Think of PaCE

In the fall of 2015, the Pathway to Campus Enrollment (PaCE) program launched at UF.

The PaCE program was a way to grant admission to qualified students despite the lack of physical space on the UF campus. This allowed incoming freshmen to start their UF journey online then eventually transfer to campus once they had earned 60 credits, which must include all prerequisites for the students’ major.

PaCE students cannot live on campus or take classes on campus, but they can be a part of clubs and organizations as well as use UF facilities.

Since this is my second year being a PaCE student, I am curious to hear what other current or former students have to say about the program. There are common misconceptions or assumptions about the PaCE program, and I have wondered if other students shared some of the same experiences that I’ve had.

I asked three students a series of questions to see if PaCE students feel the same way or have experienced similar things. 

What was your initial reaction when you were accepted into the PaCE program?

“At first, I was confused, then a bit disappointed,” said Tiffany Silva, a third-year International Studies and English Literature double major. “I thought I was a really great candidate for UF, so it confuses me as to why they were making me take online classes instead of having me attend classes on campus with everybody else. It almost felt like I was being ostracized from the rest of my class.” 

This can be a common response for a lot of students, as it can be confusing to read, “Congratulations!” on your admission announcement but then to read you are accepted into a smaller, newer program. However, for some students this is completely different. 

Sama Nuñez is a second-year Spanish and Linguistic major in the PaCE program.

“I had already known about PaCE from past friends who had gotten into UF that way too. I was 100% expecting my decision to be PaCE and when I opened the website, I was happy and relieved that I had gotten into UF. I never felt confused about what PaCE was so I think my prior knowledge about the program really helped any nerves I would have had about. I cried and my entire family screamed when we opened the website and it was all just great and amazing.”

Did you feel any sense of judgement from others for being a PaCE student?

With the PaCE program being a non-traditional college experience, it can cause one to feel a little different from others or confused at times about so many things.

For instance, confusion can stem from wondering why you were chosen for PaCE and not the “regular” student route to should I choose this program over a traditional college experience? For me, there was a lot to think about. Once I chose the PaCE program and announced it to my peers in high school, it’s like they overlooked me, or at least that's what it felt like.

While students would chatter about what dorm buildings they desired or what meal plan they were going to choose I was never included. 

If I was, their questions would end in, “Oh, never mind. You’re in PaCE.”

It may not have been intentional, but I felt left out of all the college talk amongst accepted UF students at my school. 

Jade Hecker, a second-year advertising student, said, “I did feel a little bit judged when everyone else at my high school was planning to room with friends and live on campus.”

However, Sama felt differently. She said: “After decisions came out, I did not feel any judgement at all from my peers. Everyone knew that UF was a great school and that I had gotten in so they didn't look much deeper into it. When I got to Gainesville I met a lot more PaCE kids than I expected so that also helped me feel like there was less judgement, however at the same time there is some that goes along with PaCE. Some people didn't consider me 'knowledgeable about UF ins-and-outs' although I did live in Gainesville. No one ever called me less intelligent for being a PaCE student though!”

What were your expectations, fears, assumptions, and overall thoughts of the program and did these thoughts stay the same as you continued through it?

All three students had the same fears about the PaCE program. They consisted of the fear of feeling isolated, worrying if online classes would suit them well, finding it hard to make friends, and feeling less than a traditional student.

Despite these fears, all of the girls said how they all had a positive experience. Sama confesses that she didn’t think she’d like PaCE as much as she did.

Tiffany also said that because she was in the PaCE program she was able to go to Brazil for an entire month for her birthday as well as being a full-time makeup artist at Sephora.

Jade Hecker admitted to being the most fearful of the feeling of isolation claims. 

“These thoughts were different when I realized that a bunch of my friends and roommates were also in PaCE and how easy it was to go to lectures and study on campus just like everyone else," she said. "After joining a sorority and several clubs, it didn't feel different.”

All in all, the students agreed that the program turned out to be a lot better than anticipated.

What would you say are the advantages and disadvantages of the program?

Among the advantages, the students agreed that the flexibility and free time that was provided due to the program were the best parts. For the not so great parts, the students said having to go out of their way to meet others can be difficult, as well as some of the formats for classes and exams were far different from what they expected or experienced in the past. 

When you transitioned onto campus, what was the experience like? Was it scary? Easy? Better or worse than you expected?

Tiffany and Jade said they acclimated very quickly to on campus life and they really enjoyed it. They were already living in Gainesville, going to study on campus and began to take some non gen-ed classes.

Sama also lived in Gainesville during her time in the PaCE program.

“The change was actually not as great as I expected, I liked UF a lot more when I was in PaCE than now but that all comes down to personality and personal preference,” Sama said. “I thought I'd like UF more once I transitioned and it didn't work out that way which was a little strange, but I still love the school.” 

Overall, transitioning out of the PaCE program and onto UF’s campus seemed to be breeze and positive experience for the students.

Takeaway

Going into this I was curious to see if other PaCE students felt the same as I did through my experiences.

For some reason, I thought I was the only one who experienced indirect judgement, felt confused, or was fearful of the consequences of the program itself.

Through this interviewing process, I have learned that I am not alone in my experiences and that many people had very similar ones. Although going through some of the same things, PaCE students do not all feel the same about certain experiences.

The differences were caused by knowledge about the program and an individual's person preference. Whether one is a current or former PaCE student, they all share the same love for UF.