Introducing Maurice Rippel

Editor's Note: Maurice is Campus Coordinator of our Haverford College chapter and a Mentoring Engagement Fellow. He has quite a unique story to tell and we are so lucky to have him on board.

According to Inside Higher Ed, 37.2% of students end up transferring at least once within six years (Inside Higher Ed, 2015). Despite misconceptions, transferring is not the end of the world, and is in fact, a rather common thing! If a school isn’t a good fit for a student to excel at their college work, or is in line with a student’s career goals, then it’s time for a change. I can speak directly to this experience.

I was clean-shaven. My uniform was crisp. My shoes were so shined, my reflection was visible. I could’ve been mistaken for exuding confidence, but I was shaken to the core. Former company mates and current ones alike all wondered the same thing: how could I look a “full-bird” in the eye and tell him that I was prepared to resign my commission at West Point. I didn’t understand the significance until I was outside his office. Twenty years into the military could make someone a pretty intimidating person! I checked my wrist watch, realized that I was on time-five minutes early-and entered the room.

The colonel was busy at his computer, but gestured to the seat across from him. Out his window was the Hudson, beautiful despite being so volatile and violent this time of year. The scenic view was calming. When the colonel finally faced me, I was struck by his eyes. They were sharp, fierce; they seemed to burn into me. Perhaps I was just panicking. The colonel only wanted to know two things: why I wanted to leave, and what my plan was if I had any?

Simple enough. Millions of thoughts and feelings came to me over the entirety of my six month experience. Did I want to be an Army officer? Did I want to be told what classes to take, what engineering minor to pursue? Did I want to be told what and where my job would be for the next eleven years? And most importantly, did I want to be told when my family would be allowed to see me, if at all? After all, West Point expected all of this and more from me. To all of these questions, the answer was a strong no. I was wooed to West Point by Forbes, U.S. News & World Report, and friends from back home. The free tuition was also convincing. Yet as my grandmother, a product of the Great Depression and Civil Rights movement would say, “free aien’t free”. In other words, everything comes with a cost. At the expense of my happiness and my personal freedom, I was currently resigned to an educational experience that I didn’t feel successful in. I had to make the correct decision for myself. Therefore, I expressed that I would re-apply to college and in the interim, sell and sign copies of my book.

I’m not sure of the exact words I said to the colonel that day. I know for certain that I stuttered and tripped over my words unceasingly during my speech. Nevertheless, I will always remember his reassuring smile. He wished me the best of luck, and I went on my way. While at West Point, I had “slain the Beast”, or survived Cadet Basic Training. I learned to find success in my failures. I met people from all walks of life, and have made friends that nobody can take away from me. Most important from my experience was finding out what truly mattered the most to me. What mattered was my love of writing, and I needed to find a school that could foster and cater to that. Haverford College seemed like the perfect place to excel as programs such as its Customs Program, and the First Year Writing Seminar really cater to the freshman experience. Like West Point, its financial aid was a pretty important factor, though my status as a Quest Bridge finalist was taken into consideration when creating my package. At face value, Haverford seemed like the perfect school. Despite this, there would still be some adjustment felt when I finally arrived in the fall.

Ultimately, the work we do at Mentor for Philly is aimed at helping students navigate the academic and social structures of college. Ideally, a student goes into college with the support and knowledge of what it takes to be successful at the collegiate level. I realize that my experience in realizing what I need to be successful in a college, and realizing what I want in a career is valuable in the work we do at MFP.