The first video game I ever liked was Madden 2008. I was good at it. I had a lock-down defense and I could break out for eighty yard runs at any time. I was about nine at the time so I didn’t really have anything else to do. My favorite mode though was the career mode. There you customize your own player, and work to make him the best football player of all time. My 6’1 quarterback, actually was the best of all time. And he was from my favorite school, Syracuse University.
As a kid, Syracuse was the only college I even knew existed. My parents went there, my close family friends went there, my favorite athletes went there, I was completely surrounded by Syracuse University spirit my entire childhood. So for the remainder of it, probably until high school, I wanted to go there.
But then high school came, and that dream faded away. I was a teenager, so naturally I wouldn’t want to go to the school everyone else went to, I wanted to try my own thing. I also wanted to go to school on the west coast, where it’s warm. Third, I didn’t think I had the grades to get accepted in the first place…which was probably the most important thing…
For a year and a half or so I basically gave up on the whole Syracuse dream, yes because I wanted to be different but mainly because I doubted I could ever actually go there. When the application process started last year, Syracuse wasn’t even on my list. At the time, I was perfectly fine with that… but my mom wasn’t. She must’ve asked me one hundred times to put it on my list, and eventually I agreed just so she’d leave me alone. I put my all into the application process, my essays were relentlessly proofread, and I studied hard for the SATs, but even with all that I thought of Syracuse as a “reach school” and left it at that.
Fast forward to early March, at that point I had gotten into all the schools I applied to, and my mind was set on going to a private school in North Carolina. I don’t think I really wanted to go there… but at the time, I was still trying to be independent and do my own thing, so I thought I did. I told all my friends that’s where I was going, I told some of my family, I told everyone but my mom. I had the logo as my wallpaper, I put Raleigh, North Carolina in my weather app — I was really into it. At the time, I figured that if I jumped on the school’s bandwagon early, it wouldn’t hurt so much when I didn’t get into Syracuse…
But, then I got a surprise. Syracuse accepted me. To this day, I can still vividly see the way the word “Congratulations” lept off my phone screen. I remember the way my mom’s eyes lit up when I told her the news. And above all, I can remember the feeling. It felt like a relief, like an honor, and as though a new door had been opened for me all at the same time. I was filled with so much excitement and anticipation for my future. I felt like nothing could stop me from my destiny but me. No words can really do that feeling justice.
After being accepted, there was little doubt as to what school I would attend. Syracuse University was the place I was destined to be. The worst part after getting accepted was waiting. I officially accepted my offer in mid-April, so that gave me about four months of just waiting for the college experience I had always dreamed of. For me, this was too long a wait so I decided to enroll in Syracuse’s SummerStart Program.
SummerStart began in early July, and even though it meant giving up the last summer of my high school years, it also gave me an opportunity to acclimate to my new life, plan for my future, and meet a bunch of people I wouldn’t have met otherwise. Everyone had three classes, so even though we technically had work over the summer, it wasn’t an overly intense workload. These classes helped me a lot and before even starting the fall semester, I already had eight credits. This may not seem like a lot, but having these extra credits allows for more academic flexibility. And depending on what I decide to major in, they could be the difference between graduating in three years or graduating in four.
Outside of academics, many of the closest friends I have now, are friends that I met in SummerStart. There are people from all walks of life with different backgrounds. A lot of people came from New York, which is to be expected, but there was also a huge population of people who came from California. There were some people from Texas, some from North Carolina, some from Atlanta. There were actually students from every state as well as many international students from places like Turkey and Russia. The diversity of the students in SummerStart was great, and it gave me ample opportunities to learn new customs and be exposed to different lifestyles and cultures. Coming into the fall semester with an already established friend group has undoubtedly made the transition to college easier. I credit my experience at SummerStart as one of the main reasons I am so happy to go to this school now.
My journey to Syracuse University was an eighteen years long. And despite all of the twists and turns life has thrown at me, I made it. The process of getting to this point has showed me two things. One is to never give up on your dreams. Often what you want will seem impossible, you may even begin to doubt it yourself, but if you stick with it, any goal you have can be accomplished. The second thing I learned is not to be afraid of taking a chance. I did not want to apply to Syracuse in the first place because I was afraid of rejection. If it wasn’t for me putting myself out there and overcoming these fears, I wouldn’t be here right now. And right now, I am literally living my dream.
Jalen Nash is a freshman studying pyschology in the College of Arts & Sciences. He was raised in Flatbush, New York and attended high school in New Jersey. In his free time, Jalen enjoys playing football and basketball, listening to music, reading, and writing. Jalen hopes to make a living, and be remembered, for his writing.