Having so much ahead of him at his “dream school” has made it easier for incoming Penn State freshman Jake Beal to rationalize all that he has lost as an outgoing high school senior in Marlboro, New Jersey.
Beal, like most graduating high school seniors, lost out on prom and senior week and graduation, to name just a few, because of the COVID-19 pandemic that in mid-March shuttered K-12 and higher education buildings nationwide. But after attending Admitted Students Day in Penn State’s College of Education in February, Beal was able to check off “tons of traditions that make it unique,” such as school spirit, major college football, Berkey Creamery and a university with the country’s largest living alumni base.
“I know that right now everything seems dark, but I know better days are ahead. I appreciate the communication that Penn State has provided throughout the past few months and how Penn State is assessing the fall semester in order to prioritize its students,” said Beal, also optimistically citing all of the displays of “people helping people” he’s seen in his small hometown since the coronavirus outbreak.
Beal said he sought a small-school feel within a big-school setting, and he found that with the College of Education.
“I toured over 30 colleges and Penn State’s College of Education was the only school that had an education-specific career fair every fall and spring,” Beal said. “The kind and knowledgeable staff also made the College of Education very appealing. I visited the school three times and each time I met with incredible staff members. During one of my Penn State visits, the College of Education provided me with a personalized one-on-one tour where they answered all of my questions.
“The degrees offered at the College of Education are impressive. I am very interested in their IUG (Integrated Undergraduate Graduate) program where I will graduate in five years with a bachelor's in elementary education and a master’s degree in special education,” he added.
Beal’s "dream school" dream came true on Dec. 18 when his acceptance into Penn State and the College of Education was posted. He said he wants to participate in intramural soccer, Penn State Hillel and THON. “I am a special education major because I want to make a difference in children’s lives and THON does just that for children and families impacted by childhood cancer,” Beal said.
“The College of Education houses dozens of amazing extracurricular activities. I am excited to get involved in the College of Education Student Council where I can work with administrators and other students to discuss and solve problems facing educators across the country. And a club that has really caught my eye is the PSU Council for Exceptional Children (CEC). This council is dedicated to advancing the success of children with exceptionalities. Penn State truly is a one-of-a-kind school and I am so happy I am a part of it.”
Whether the coronavirus relents enough to allow Beal and classmates to reside at University Park in the fall remains to be seen, but whatever decision is rendered will be understood, he said.
“If Penn State decides to move the fall semester to online, we would need to understand that this is the best solution,” Beal said. “I have no doubt that even online, Penn State will provide its students an incredible education. My family and I trust that Penn State’s leadership will create a safe space for their students to live and learn, thus ensuring the safety of its students.”
The key, according to Beal, is that no matter what happens, students still will graduate with a Penn State degree. “Penn State provides its students an amazing education that is valued worldwide,” he said. “The faculty at Penn State have made the decision to attend Penn State incredibly easy and I have no doubt they are committed to providing us with an amazing fall semester.”
Beal said that throughout his college-decision process he was grateful for relationships he formed in the College of Education with Greg Mason, director and certification coordinator; Sarah Moryken, recruitment and retention coordinator; and Megan Foster, academic adviser. That made his decision a no-matter-what lock.
“When I heard that the fall semester may look different and potentially online, I never questioned my decision that I would still be attending Penn State in the fall as a freshman,” he said. “I could not imagine going anywhere else or chanting anything but ‘We Are.’”