When Michael Penn began applying to colleges, he didn’t think he would end up at a university relatively close to his hometown of Westwood, N.J.

“For the past few years I was dead set on another school, I did everything I could to try to get in,” Penn said. “Stony Brook kept popping up whenever I searched for colleges, and I was encouraged to apply.”

But as his search went on, Penn said that the colleges he initially looked into just didn’t have what he wanted in his future school and home.

“When I began to visit colleges, I found that all the schools I first wanted to go to fell short,” he said. “Many of them lacked passion, the campuses lacked drive. And then I found Stony Brook, what I thought was a small unknown campus became the center of attention.

“This campus was alive and passionate, even at 10 in the morning on a Saturday,” he added. “More than any campus I visited. So it was an obvious choice when the time came.”

Penn is among roughly 2,500 students who will enter Stony Brook as a freshman this year, according to Judy Berhannan, the Dean of Admissions. And according to the Association of American Colleges and Universities, there are about 2,600 four-year schools in the country, so why did these incoming freshmen choose to study for their prospective careers at Stony Brook?

“Increasingly, we have a national reputation for excellence and our outstanding academic offerings …along with a growing reputation among educational facilities,” Berhannan said. “Our stature has been growing.”

Berhannan said many factors such as faculty, research opportunities and campus life contributed to the incoming students’ decisions to attend Stony Brook. In the case of Middletown, N.J. resident Amanda Gambacorto, her decision to pursue a degree in nursing determined her choice to become a Seawolf.

“[Stony Brook is] well-known for its health programs and there is a hospital on campus, which really set it apart from other schools,” she said. “The distance isn’t ideal, but it’s worth a few hours of travel for such a high level of education at such a low cost.”

Many students find that paying for a higher education can be difficult, so when it came time for Rachael Ellenbogen of Guilderland, N.Y. to make her decision, she said she chose Stony Brook out of the 11 colleges she applied to, partially because of the cost.

“Stony Brook ended up just being the best choice out of my college options,” she said. “At first it seemed like I simply settled, but as time went on and I thought about it more, it just seemed like a no-brainer. SBU is SUNY so it is fairly cheap when compared to private schools…and the campus is beautiful!”

Location also factored in to the decisions of many students who chose to commute to their schools, such as Laboni Gomes of Holbrook, N.Y.

“I decided to go to Stony Brook because it is an exceptional school that is close to home,” she said. “Being that I’m a commuter, I needed to attend a school that is not far in driving distance. I applied to [other local schools], however, my number one choice was Stony Brook University.” Because Gomes is enrolling in Stony Brook’s young and growing School of Journalism, she’s ensured small class sizes, a factor that further convinced her of Stony Brook’s educational opportunities.

And for Farmingdale, N.Y. resident Samantha Zhang, Stony Brook offers everything she looked for in a school.

“I loved Stony Brook as soon as I stepped on campus,” she said. “I choose this school because I can get a great education and have fun at the same time. Also, it is convenient for me to go home because it’s a decent distance away.”

In addition liking the campus, prospective Stony Brook students also need to meet certain academic standards in order to attend the school. To be admitted, students typically need average GPAs ranging from 88-94, SAT scores as high as 1940 and ACT scores from 25-29, according to statistics provided on the university’s website.

Students such as Gambacorto, Gomes and Zhang recognized the reputation Stony Brook has for its academics and clearly met its standards in order to be attending this year. Berhannan said that this year’s freshman class is continuing a legacy and adding to the school’s large number of scholarly talented and motivated students.

“This class continues to build upon a trend of a very diverse and talented student body,” she said.