06/03/2013 10:25 am ET Updated Aug 03, 2013

Liberating Decision

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This is part of our monthly series 'Mission: Accepted,' in partnership with Minds Matter, which chronicles the lives of four students as they apply for college in their senior year.

After getting over my several rejections and rejoicing over my many acceptances, it was finally time to make a decision about where I would be going in the fall. In the end, I was accepted at UC Santa Barbara, UC San Diego, UCLA, Berkeley, Pomona College and... the University of Pennsylvania! Yes, my letter of appeal paid off!

Getting accepted by Penn was an affirmation of all the effort I -- and everyone who helped me along the way -- put into this process. And even though I've always thought it is the all-around perfect college for me, being put on the wait list gave me time to really consider the other schools I got into. I revisited the list I made at the beginning of the application process, where I had written that I wanted to attend a small to medium-sized school with a large selection of courses and activities that also met 100 percent of my financial need. What I discovered was that Pomona fit that bill just as well as Penn, but it's not just a small school -- it's tiny! I'm talking 1,500 undergrads to UPenn's 10,000. I didn't think I wanted a place that small, but Pomona has so much to offer that it became a serious contender. I knew I couldn't go wrong with either school, but choosing between them was very hard -- they're so different. Which dream was I going to follow?

The only way to figure it out was by weighing the pros and cons of each school. To help with this, I conducted even more research on both schools. I looked at the demographics, what students typically do after graduation, the teacher-student ratio, the percentage of students who graduate, the course selections... basically almost every statistic I could find. I also spoke with several current students and alums. And then I started making my list of pros and cons. Penn's four undergraduate schools foster more opportunities for career exploration, which is a pro because I'm not sure exactly what I want to pursue. I think Penn will be able to accommodate my changing interests better. It's also a mid-size school, another pro because that means there are a lot of opportunities to meet new people and there is always something to do. However, I also had to put Penn's size on the con side. With 10,000 students (20,000 if you count grad students), it could be difficult to receive individual attention from professors and to form relationships with them. I don't want to get lost in the crowd or be just another number. The biggest pro is Penn's location in Philadelphia, which is what draws me to the school the most. The student body is extremely active, and the campus is situated in a city filled with culture and history: museums; amazing ethnic restaurants; the Liberty Bell, America's symbol of freedom. But on the con side, there's Philly weather. I've lived in warm climates my whole life (Nigeria and California). Philly winters will be a huge change and possibly another added stress. Why leave California sunshine when there's a great school right in SoCal?

And that brings me to Pomona. I love the intimate feel of the campus and the classes. I think it will be easy to build relationships with my professors (in fact, Pomona professors are often known to have lunch with students). I have always preferred small classes because they are less overwhelming and work well with my learning style -- I do better when I am able to easily communicate with the instructor -- and they also often lend themselves to discussions rather than lectures. I like to hear what my fellow students have to say and share my own ideas and opinions. Another check in Pomona's pro column is that resources--like study-abroad and exchange programs and personal tutoring--are highly accessible because there are fewer people competing for them. Yet another thing I love about the school: Because it is a member of the Claremont University Consortium -- a collection of five liberal arts colleges (the others are Claremont McKenna, Harvey Mudd, Scripps and Pitzer) -- I would be able to take classes at any of the other colleges, eat in any of their cafeterias, and interact with their students. But an aspect of Pomona that I don't like is its surrounding environment. Its small-town location almost reminds me of a bubble. I think I would lack "real world" exposure at Pomona, while at Penn, the big city practically begs you to be a part of it. I want the option of easily exploring exciting places during my free time. That's something that Pomona does not offer me.

Making this decision was much harder than I thought it would be. But after weeks of going back and forth, I decided to attend the University of Pennsylvania in the fall. Penn's size was really the only significant thing I was concerned about (well, and the weather!).

I think that worry was just me doubting my ability to handle the academic rigor of a larger school without someone always being there to support me. But when I expressed this concert to my family and teachers, they all said the same thing: "There's help everywhere -- you might just have to put a little more effort into finding it at Penn." And that is just what I will do. Besides, no one is going to be there to hold my hand in the real world, are they? Once that aspect was addressed, I was sold. Penn is definitely much more out of my comfort zone, but I think that's exactly what I need to experience personal growth. I am confident that I've made the right choice, and I cannot wait to see what the next four years have in store for me!

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