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I Finished My Senior Year of College... Now What?

College was filled with four years of firsts for me. I would be the first one in my immediate family to earn my degree. I had my first real heart break. For the first time ever, I left the country and studied abroad in Australia. I lost a loved one for the very first time; I miss you Grandpa. I hopped my first fence leaving a party. It was the first time I felt like I was meant to be somewhere.

Coming to Monmouth was an actual dream come true. Opening up my acceptance letter flooded me with emotions. When I read the words “Dear Nicole, Congratulations!” I felt like I was on top of the world. However, it was a steep slope down realizing that affording tuition wasn’t practical.

When you’re 18 and from a small town, you constantly dream about the day you leave for college with the naivety that nothing can stand in your way. But ultimately, the block in the road is usually reality.

When my family and I analyzed the options, I realized there weren’t many. I tucked my acceptance letter away on my desk and suddenly the way I had always pictured my future was taking a turn.

My mom is a hairdresser—she is also the epitome of independence and hard work—and a week or so after I received my acceptance letter, she was venting to one of her customers about how devastating our situation was.

Ironically, the woman in her chair was a financial aid consultant at another school and informed her of a program called the Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF) which is a scholarship to provide access to highly motivated scholars from New Jersey who come from a low-income background and exhibit the potential to achieve an undergraduate education.

EOF’s subpage on the university site states, “Our scholars are provided full-time admission, financial support, and comprehensive services necessary to achieve academic success, foster personal growth, and promote career development.”

After a thousand phone calls made by my mom and my stepdad, I was one of the last people out of hundreds to be accepted for an interview. After a very competitive process, I received a new acceptance letter that changed my life. “Dear Nicole, Welcome to the EOF program.”

Everyone has their Monmouth story, but I hold mine so close to my heart.

Coming into school, I was a health studies student. My plan was to become an occupational therapist to help people with multiple sclerosis, which affects my dad. I realized, however, after two semesters and asking the kid next to me to “stop writing in cursive so I can read his test,” that maybe molecular biology wasn’t for me.

That semester, I busted my butt and STILL got my very first “D” which is O.K., because sometimes you win, sometimes you learn.

I always knew I had a niche for writing and was creative and quick with social media, but I never realized I could find a career based off my passions.

Sophomore year, I switched my major to communication and never looked back. I never knew how smart I was until I was in classes catered to my talents and interests; all of this lead to where I am right now.

Looking back on these past four years, my 18 year old self would be so proud. Ultimately, because of Monmouth, I was able to find who I was meant to be all along—but I couldn’t do it without the support of my friends and family.

Senior year came, went, and now flashed before my eyes. Is it really over?

So now what?

I have one more semester left until I officially earn my degree, but will be living at home to save/make money. As I'm sure you have heard, college REALLY is the best four years of your life and I cannot describe what it feels like to be over. I cannot believe I left high school in 2014 and thought I had all the time in the world until 2018 got here, but man, I was wrong. I am not sad about this chapter in my life ending, but nostalgic, and I believe that means I did it right.

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