Living in the Northeast, I always assumed I would find myself at a liberal arts college nestled in the New England suburbs. It seemed to be a rite of passage, following suit of my high school classmates before me.
So when I chose to go to ASU, I felt like I had failed all expectations miserably.
One Google search of ASU gives the frequently asked question "Why does ASU have a bad reputation?" Pop culture icons from "The Simpsons" to Stephen Colbert add to the heat by poking fun at the University from every angle.
And a Sun Devil can't help but feel a slight burn when Jack Donaghy says "A parent is the one person who is supposed to make their kid think … they're smart even when they go to Arizona State" during an episode of "30 Rock."
READ MORE: 7 times ASU was referenced in pop culture
Education has always been one of the most important facets of my life. By taking Advanced Placement classes and striving for high honors, it's safe to say academics became one of my primary traits.
Being as indecisive as I am academic, the college process was far from easy. I knew what I wanted to some extent — proximity to a city, larger population, good programs for my interests and school spirit.
The latter, a seemingly unsubstantial qualification in comparison to the aforementioned, was actually one of the most important. For me, school spirit directly correlated to the amount of love students had toward their school and was a measurement of how happy they were.
With everything it had to offer, ASU seemed to be perfect for me. Yet, I was still hesitant.
As I watched others commit to elite universities in the Ivy League or a likely equivalent, I realized my problem was rooted in the much bigger issue of elitism.
Coming from a largely white, upper-middle class town, a private liberal arts education was considered the norm in many cases.
ASU's 86% acceptance rate, according to U.S. News, seemed discouraging at first. While peers made the cut at rates of less than 20%, it appeared I was attending a university with seemingly looser standards.
By going to a large state school on the other side of the country, I strayed from this status quo leaving me feeling felt out of place and judged — I was afraid people would view my choice as lacking challenge and promise.
When a peer commented it might be difficult to compete for graduate school with a state school degree, I became irritated by the ignorance of those around me, rather than feeling ashamed in myself and choice.
Why did my heavily thought-out decision seem to reflect poorly when it was one of the smartest decisions I could make?
The reality was ASU had what I needed to thrive, allowing me to became part of a university that tries to establish an accessible environment for all students.
The ASU Charter states we are "measured not by whom we exclude, but rather by whom we include and how they succeed."
When looking at statistics, the programs offered at ASU have earned high recognition, something too often overshadowed by its history of partying. The W. P. Carey School of Business has quickly climbed up the ranks, finding itself at No. 24 in the nation, ahead of "elite" schools like Boston University.
Countless arguments can be made to support ASU as a force not to be reckoned with. However, the school's stigma is something that won't go away with facts and figures — old habits die hard, and ASU slander is unfortunately no exception.
My experience at ASU, despite it only being my first year, has already brought immeasurable achievements and pride to my life. I feel more accomplished and supported in my endeavors than ever, and I'm backed by an expansive network of incredible professionals and friends.
Finding happiness was ultimately a matter of accepting my potential and not worrying about what others thought of me, no matter where I am.
ASU may still be portrayed as a party school in our favorite TV shows and late night talks for years to come. But that's OK. I'm happy here and I'm doing amazing.
Much of an educational pursuit is what you put into your endeavors rather than who gives you the information. After all, we're No.1 in innovation with Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stanford in the shadows.
I know the value of education. Others can choose to see the college experience in same light or remain ignorant to it all. No one's opinions on the matter affect me except mine.
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