'Dream school' in her own backyard

For Melissa Aguilar and thousands of other Penn Staters, success starts and ends at a Commonwealth campus
Abington student
Credit: Andrew Boynton

ABINGTON, Pa. — One size fits all applies to beanies and bracelets, but finding a college that’s the right fit isn’t always that easy. So a Penn State student organization selected senior Melissa Aguilar to share why she chose Penn State Abington and how she flourished there.

“What is a Penn State education? For me, it started and ended at a Commonwealth campus,” she told the audience at the annual State of State conference. “You have to open your eyes to the endless opportunities, benefits and resources available at the campuses.”

“My Penn State Abington education allowed me to apply to Ph.D. programs competing on the same playing field as students from University Park and the Ivy League.”

-- Melissa Aguilar, Penn State Abington senior

“I knew Abington was where I needed to be the moment I started there. I wanted to be part of Penn State family, to drive to University Park for football games but also be close to my family,” Aguilar said. “Abington was the perfect fit for me.”


  • Access to faculty: Students and many faculty develop close working relationships at Abington. Faculty members invite students to collaborate on research and provide advice and support.  
  • Diversity: Abington is known as one of the most diverse campuses within Penn State. Aguilar pointed out that it encompasses race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomics, and differing abilities. “With fewer people enrolled at Commonwealths and larger percentages of diverse groups, we can interact with each other more," the psychology major said.
  • Supplemental experiences: Aguilar jumped into THON, orientation leadership, research, and Alternative Spring Break. “I traveled from New York to Louisiana for learning and service," she said. "And I was able to continue my work experience uninterrupted, participate in internships, as well as develop research to present at academic conferences.”
Why Penn State Abington is the perfect fit for college

Melissa Aguilar share why Penn State Abington made for the ideal college experience. She took advantage of the opportunities, resources, and benefits of a smaller campus. But she still immersed herself in the Penn State family through THON and football games.

Credit: State of State

Her experiences at Abington laid the foundation for the future, which includes heading to Columbia University for her master’s in social-organizational psychology. 

“My Penn State Abington education allowed me to apply to Ph.D. programs competing on the same playing field as students from University Park and the Ivy League,” Aguilar said at State of State, which used a TED Talk format. 

She also spoke of students whose college options are limited by finances, jobs and family, but campuses such as Abington open the Penn State experience to them.

“This is why Penn State is so great. Students who never imagined they would be able to have a college experience can do it no matter where they live," she said. "In the end we all end up with a Penn State degree, but our different experiences help shape and create our lives.”

“Abington was and continues to be my dream school,” the Schreyer Honors College Scholar said.