Alexa Tirse was devastated three years ago when she thought she was denied admission to her dream school, UF.
It wasn’t until a few days later that she went back to the letter and learned she hadn’t been turned down. Her mother had seen on Twitter some students were offered admission through the newly launched Pathway to Campus Enrollment Program.
“It took me a while to process things,” the 21-year-old said.
Tirse read past the letter’s first three paragraphs, discovering she was one of about 3,000 extended an offer to PaCE in its inaugural year.
Now, Tirse, a UF English senior, will graduate a year earlier than expected alongside nine others from the PaCE program’s first class.
“It was not necessarily what I had planned, but I overcame the obstacles and made the most out of it,” said Tirse, who will be attending Cornell Law School in the Fall.
UF President Kent Fuchs said the PaCE students used the flexibility of the program and its online classes to excel in other areas.
“They are true trailblazers,” Fuchs said. “And it is really special that they are actually graduating ahead of others in their class.”
The PaCE program, launched in February 2015, is a hybrid degree that enrolls students online their first two years or until they reach 60 credit hours before transitioning them to a traditional on-campus enrollment.
While online, students pay 25 percent less than normal for their tuition and aren’t opted in to activity fees unless they are in Gainesville, said Evie Cummings, the director of UF Online.
PaCE is unique from other online programs in the country because students are taught by the same faculty who teach on campus, Cummings said.
“These students are Gators from the first day,” she said.
Without a rigid in-class schedule, Zachary Silver, a UF sociology senior, stayed at his home in Orlando to help the family care for their ill grandfather, who died in February.
“It definitely gave me the opportunity to help out with him a little more,” Silver said.
Whether it was driving to and from doctor’s appointments or watching Spanish League soccer games, Silver and his grandfather had always been close, and it was special that he could be there for him, Silver said. The family gathered almost every Sunday evening for dinner, he said.
Alexa Trout, another PaCE student who will graduate in May, recovered from running in the New York City Marathon with her legs up in bed and her laptop open to her coursework.
Ahead of the race, Trout, a UF public relations senior, ran a total of 550 miles to train. Her training plan was five days a week for 16 weeks.
“There’s no way I could’ve done it if I was taking traditional classes,” the 21-year old said.