The Last Quarter At Drexel

Well, this is it. Three months left. It’s been one hell of a five-year journey. And over those five years, there’s been one question I’ve been asked more than any: Why did you choose Drexel? The latest occurrence is the Drexel Subreddit. But, it’s a valid question, and one I’m still happy to answer five years later. My latest answer was this one:

I don’t think that tells the whole story though. I actually started the college search process pretty late in my high school years. Late enough that it apparently raised concern. And to be honest, I don’t know where I would’ve ended up if my Journalism teacher in high school hadn’t effectively forced me to start looking at colleges. It was suggested that I look at Marist to start as they were offering the opportunity for a full ride and apparently had a very good relationship with IBM. So I did. It was OK. Decent campus size, but not a thrilling location. I also applied to Ramapo, Temple, the local community college, and Drexel. Ramapo I think was for the low-cost. Temple was because mom went there. Local community college was offering a full ride. Drexel, as I noted above, was literally only because I remembered the name. It turned out to be the most expensive option too.

Funny enough, Marist rejected my application. Ramapo was the first I received a reply from, and it was a yes. Temple followed soon after. Drexel was the last to say yes.

I think I could have possibly been happy at Ramapo, but I really wanted to get out of NJ for college. So, they were placed at the bottom of my rankings list. Temple’s program I wasn’t happy with. The campus was OK, with mom constantly remarking how much it had changed since she went there. Drexel almost got a no vote from me.

Obviously, that no changed to a yes. So why did I originally say no? As Drexel is apparently infamous for, its campus. It had the worst first impression of all the colleges I visited. I still remember thinking on first sight of the Rush Building, “This is the building that houses the IT program? This tiny, old thing?” I learned that day not to judge a building by its exterior. The inside was relatively modern, and while tiny, felt appropriate for an IT college building. Labs were modern. Rooms were wired with plenty of technology. Chairs still suck. As Drexel proceeded to pitch itself, the co-op program of course stuck out. But the college size and location stuck out more. The class I was originally going to be graduating with was small enough that it took the better part of three-and-a-half years before I wasn’t in classes with the same people all the time. Sure, each new Freshman class would add a handful of new faces to my classes, but it wasn’t until my fourth year that I started seeing more new faces than faces I knew.

To this day, I’m still fine with that. I think being a part of the iSchool Learning Community was one of the best decisions I made at Drexel (and not because it covered housing – in full – for my first year.) It’s incredible how people can change over the course of five years. There are people who I’ll be graduating with in June that I honestly thought were going to be thrown out of Drexel. They’ve turned around remarkably. Some have done some incredible things with their time at Drexel.

When it was announced that the iSchool would be merging with the Computer Science department and a couple of graduate programs, I was initially less than thrilled. But, without that merger, I would not be on the Senior Design Project that I currently am. And I’m working with an awesome group. While it hasn’t brought the facilities upgrade we could badly use (minus the Cybersecurity Institute that’s housed in a space we’re leasing), I do think it was a decision that made sense. Our small community is a bit bigger now, but that size increase has brought some fresh thinking to the table that I think we needed. I still remember being told in University 101 that our class had set a new record. We had more women in our class than any before us. We had five – and I’m pretty sure they’re all still with the college.

If I were just applying to Drexel today, would I do it again? Absolutely. But for slightly different reasons. My time in Melbourne made me fall in love with public transport. I like to think Drexel is Philly’s secret transit hub. We have a trolley station and subway station a block from each other. 30th Street Station is just three small blocks down. All of that makes it insanely easy to get around – including out-of-state thanks to Amtrak. My first time on Amtrak? Off to New York for my first time at New York Comic Con in 2010. Insistently, NYCC was my first convention. I’ve now traveled on Amtrak down to DC for MAGFest and to Baltimore for Otakon – opportunities I might not have had otherwise. Last July, I rode all of SEPTA’s Regional Rail. Why? Because I could (How else was I going to use an Anywhere Pass compliments of SEPTA?)

While Philly is constantly looked down upon as both a city to live in and as a travel destination, I love it. And I think the media’s impression of us is finally changing, having realized that while there are definitely crappy parts of the city, we’re a very livable one. SEPTA is cheap and fairly reliable. Sure, we’re one of two (so I hear) systems still on tokens, but I think SEPTA is very much a transit authority that actually gives a shit. If you’re in a city with public transit, are you a passenger or a customer? We’re passengers on SEPTA, and that classification sends a huge message to me. We’re viewed as people – not just a revenue source. Philly is also a large enough city that there is always something to do here. If I move for a job after Drexel, I know I’ll definitely miss the Museum of Art.

As far as Drexel goes, while our unofficial name is “Drexel Construction Institute,” that non-stop construction has brought with it a host of opportunities I wish existed when I entered Drexel. The Close School of Entrepreneurship is the most notable of them. I don’t know if I would’ve considered a Minor in Entrepreneurship without the experiences I’ve had now, but I know I certainly wish now it had been a possibility when I started at Drexel. It certainly hasn’t been a flawless five years, and I disagree with more decisions President Fry has made than I agree with, but I would honestly do it again. I’m actually glad Drexel has been a royal pain in the ass (and an expensive one at that.) Shit happens in life. That’s a fact. And I think if you go to a college that doesn’t try to screw you at least once in your time there, you’re in for a hell of a wake up call when you get out to the “real world.” I think the infamous Drexel Shaft is a course in itself: UNIV-201: Dealing With Fuckups. Actually, make that two courses: UNIV-202: How To Make Academic Decisions You Won’t Later Regret. Spoiler alert, Drexel’s actual course, UNIV-101 teaches with neither.

So, if you’re reading this as someone considering applying to Drexel, my first word of advice is to go visit. In person, not just virtually. Second, don’t apply just because of the co-op program. The quarter system will be hell on earth for you if you’re not ready to accept – and keep up with – the challenge it brings to the table. Third, if the college you’re applying to is small, get to know the people in it. Do things together besides classwork. Then go meet people outside your college and learn how to work with them. If not – by some highly unlikely chance – at Drexel, I can guarantee at some point in your life you will have to deal with people from a completely different background than your own. Take advantage of the diversity on Drexel’s campus. We have an insane amount of clubs; join at least one of them. Fourth, get to know your city and your university. SEPTA might be the easiest transit network out there to learn. But, if you get lost or need help in general, @SEPTA_SOCIAL is a tweet away, and they’re always happy to help. Just remember you are talking to another person (and they’re seriously nice people; I’ve met them.) Roam around as much of Drexel as you can get into without getting in to trouble. Then make at least one trip to the Archives in the basement of Hagerty. We might not be a “famous” school, but we sure have a great history. Finally, good luck. Drexel is not for the faint hearted, and that holds true for every major I know people from (over 20 of them). If you can’t manage your time wisely by the end of your first year – and if you’ve managed to still be at Drexel despite that – you’re going to have a very difficult time going forward.

So good luck, but be sure to take time to have fun.

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