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ESCHLEMAN: Why NJ college hopefuls need to stop discounting Rutgers

Column: Shower Thoughts

More New Jersey high school students need to take a good, long look at Rutgers.  – Photo by Matan Dubnikov

From the perspective of a recently assimilated Rutgers first-year who was told not to go to Rutgers:

At my high school, as I am sure is the case at many other New Jersey high schools, the one university that people did not want to end up at was Rutgers. And this stubborn sentiment was not just held by college applicants but also by adults. When people asked me where I was going to college and I replied with, “Rutgers,” the response was often a surprised yet disappointed “Oh!” and a forced smile.

Occasionally, I would get a hearty “I love Rutgers!” from a Rutgers alumnus, but that is because they know what Rutgers is really all about. The amount of times I was told to “just take on debt” for the sake of avoiding Rutgers is ridiculous and honestly ignorant.

Even as I heard these comments before stepping onto campus, I remained confident that Rutgers is a great place. But now that I am here, hate on Rutgers absolutely bewilders me.

A lot of institutions of higher education claim to value diversity, but how can you value or implement diversity without actually being a diverse place? Well, lucky enough for Rutgers students, Rutgers is diverse.

Based on data from fall 2020 of Rutgers—New Brunswick’s total undergraduate student body, U.S. News & World Report ranked the University 42nd among national university rankings of ethnic diversity for 2022. And coming from a predominantly white, upper-middle-class suburb, it was a relief to be exposed to a diverse population. 

By having such a large and diverse student population, Rutgers is inherently diverse in interests. During the Involvement Fair, a throng of bustling Rutgers students carried me through a packed College Avenue. A mix of awe and adrenaline washed over me as hundreds of organizations lined the streets side by side — all different.

As the Ballroom and Latin Club glided across the stage, the crowded fraternity houses attempted to look cooler than one another, the sports clubs played games in the street and the professional clubs shouted about how they would land you the job. There was even the Furry Culture Association. Ultimately, when a university is diverse, you are destined to find your place and learn from others.

College is too expensive to begin with and should be more accessible, but it is typically the first huge financial decision society hands you as an adult. Debt is an immobilizing, crippling weight sitting on your shoulders constantly. No, really.

Rutgers is still a great option for out-of-staters and international students, but it is more expensive. In-state students get all the perks of Rutgers at a budgeted price. And less debt means more potential spending money. It has only been a little more than three weeks here, and I have been to RU Hungry four times.

Now that I am at a big state school, I could not imagine being at a small school. Imagine knowing every single person. Yuck. People often describe large student populations as overwhelming, but I honestly find it comforting. Everyone weaves their way through crowds of strangers as they make their way through campus.

Everyone has different paths, goals and stories, yet we are all connected and unified by one place. Rutgers provides a platform where you are never forced to stop learning. Just talk to the person next to you on the bus! You probably do not know them, and that is a beautiful thing!

It is unique how each individual has their own story, yet everyone can still come together. This school spirit is an intangible aspect of the college experience that fills you with belonging and inspiration. Whether we all come together for a game or event, you can feel the energy, and it is indescribable.

If you hear a hopeful college applicant hate on Rutgers or encounter a reluctant incoming Rutgers student, hand them this article! Feed them knowledge and debunk their misconceptions. Also, everyone needs a reminder for why they should be grateful for their school and education.

Is Rutgers perfect? No. Brower Commons and my stomach do not get along. At all. But every college has its flaws, and Rutgers has way fewer flaws than people think. The problem with shaming Rutgers is that it deters people from a great option and most likely a more financially smart option.

Everyone across the country should stop hating on Rutgers. But, especially young people who live in New Jersey. Have some state pride! Maybe, I am biased. I am in the honeymoon phase of college after all, but I am confident that it is going to be a great four years. Stay tuned.

Sara Eschleman is a Rutgers Business School first-year majoring in Marketing and minoring in English. Her column 'Shower Thoughts' runs on alternate Thursdays.

*Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

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