When prospective college students are searching for their future institution after high school, they generally think about these key points: location, size, campus environment, academics and admission requirements. While these are all important factors, one large chunk of the decision is usually absent from the student’s mind — price.
I admit to being one of those students who overlooked the most important question regarding going to college: Could I afford it? The simple answer was no, but with a little help, I knew I could earn my degree at Rider and make my dreams of becoming a professional journalist a reality, even if I had some loans to pay off after graduation.
Getting accepted to Rider and beginning my education was the kick I needed to get my life in gear. Failing was never an option. I knew that I had to prove to myself and to my family that I wanted to do well.
During my first two years, I benefited greatly from both financial aid and Rider scholarships that were based on maintaining a certain GPA. During high school, I was content with sliding by with a C+ average, but I knew that mindset had to change. Getting a college education is not just something I want to accomplish — it's something I needed to accomplish to become successful in the real world.
Now, looking back, I feel the most important thing I did when I started out here was to get involved on campus. I wanted my time at Rider to be not only about the education, but also the college experience every student dreams of. I wasn’t concerned with finding the best parties, but with making close friends with people who had similar interests. As a journalism major, I found my spot with The Rider News, the student newspaper.
While I had minimal experience writing in the journalistic style, I knew I had enough of the basics down to try writing my first story. Entering The Rider News meeting for the first time was an intimidating experience; I was surrounded by people I had never spoken to before, people who were going to be reading and most likely ripping apart my first story. In my high school years, I might have just turned around and walked out because it was uncomfortable and I was nervous. Instead, I wrote my first article, a sports piece about the Rider wrestling team. While I can look back at that story and tell you a hundred things I could have improved on, those 500 words completely shaped my college experience.
After finishing that story, I was invited back to The Rider News and asked if I would be interested in taking over the sports editor position the next year. As an avid sports fan, I was ecstatic to have the opportunity to write about something I was passionate about. I accepted the position and spent the next year working alongside some of the most hardworking people I know. But they aren't just my co-workers, they are my friends. They helped shape my college experience for the better, and I wholly expect to stay connected with them long after my time at Rider ends.
After my first year at The Rider News, I received another fantastic opportunity. The newspaper’s two faculty advisors noticed the hard work and long hours I put in every week and suggested I run for executive editor of the paper. Not only would the position give me great experience for my resume, but it would also provide a scholarship covering my tuition. At that point, I wasn’t even sure I could afford to continue my education, but the job would give me the chance to finish my degree with a considerably lighter financial load.
The prospect of leading The Rider News scared me, but I remembered my first meeting at the newspaper when I thought about walking out. I didn’t walk out and I got involved. Thanks to that, some hard work and a little luck, I shaped my college experience for the better.
As my time at Rider comes to a close, I want to say thank-you to a place that has turned my life in the right direction. I will never forget the education, experiences and opportunities I have been given here.