To High School Seniors Across the Nation Hearing from Colleges

by / 5 Comments / 1551 View / December 11, 2014

Hey seniors! It’s that time of year already? No, I’m not talking about Christmas. It’s crazy to think that just one year ago I was in the same shoes as a lot of you right now, behind a computer awaiting that decision on my application to Wharton’s Huntsman Program – my dream. Now as a freshman here, I can state with a certain conviction that it is best to go with what makes you happy. You are all idiosyncratically brilliant individuals and tailor that to what you feel is best for you.  – Billy Kacyem, University of Pennsylvania Class of 2018

For those who have already graduated and moved to college, we think of this time as “that part of the year.”  College applications are memorable to say the least and often they impact us in ways that extend years into our lives.  This event is not one to downplay: even with all of the debate regarding the worth of a college degree or the notorious ranking systems which make headlines in bumping a renowned college up or down, getting into college remains an event, at its core, that is life changing.  For some high schoolers, this time period is nerve-wracking, understandably.  An acceptance and rejection both can bring tears.  And for some individuals, it is a mainly touching and philosophical moment.

A little while before early decisions came out, I heard a great quote from a different ED: that is, Emily Dickinson: “Dwell in possibility.” This is how I approached the dreaded D-day. I savored those last few hours before knowing whether or not I got into my dream school, because I knew it was the last day it would be just that: a dream, tainted neither by rejection nor a reality that could never live up to the ideal. – Danielle Moore, The University of Pennsylvania Class of 2018

Some were in the oddest of scenarios:

My mom called me to let me know I’d been accepted into GMU when I was on campus for their Forensics tournament. While your acceptance moment might not be as unique and magical, remember you have the power to make your college experience unique and magical.” – Pablo Ramirez Uribe, George Mason University Class of 2017

And sometimes filled with surprise:

If you were to ask my senior year self to describe the type of college I wanted to attend, I would waste no time in telling you that I would surely go to a small private school close to my home state of Connecticut. After some rejections, deferrals and even some acceptances, I chose the complete opposite: The University of Michigan. Since day 1, Michigan has been nothing less than a home for me. I may have never found this home had I not taken the time to step outside of my comfort zone! Trust yourself and your instincts! -Neel Swamy, University of Michigan Class of 2018

As an undergraduate group, we felt that it would be best if we lent our own experiences just a few years ago that will soon mirror yours.  For instance, some of us got into our “dream school.”

I had always wanted to attend St. John’s University & follow in the footsteps of my uncle who graduated a few years ago. The moment I received my acceptance I couldn’t do much besides cry and smile. I think that it is important to cherish those moments. It’s what makes all of the hard work in high school worth it! – Suzanne Ciechalski, St. John’s University Class of 2018

Some of us got rejected or deferred from many or a few, often from the “dream.”

In the jumble of college acceptance drama, I began to believe that what colleges I got into defined me. After getting deferred early action from UChicago , I reevaluated my achievements and realized that a ‘yes’ would not have altered the impact that they had on my community. It was also enlightening to look into other potential schools, ones I still consider amazing options today. – Jessica Lu University of Chicago Class of 2018

Sometimes large acceptances are surrounded by disappointing decisions.

I was bouncing down the aisles of the coach bus, returning from a successful show choir competition, when I received the decision. I was accepted into 8 of the 9 colleges I applied to, and I was about to hear from the last. Boston University informed me via e-mail that this year’s pools of applicants were rather large in number and in talent. I was not accepted into my reach school. This news drained my spirits in the middle of a high energy night. I went home and sulked for a while but decided to analyze my other options for college. I made the decision to attend The University of Minnesota, and three semesters later I confirm this was the best choice for me. I absolutely love my school and take advantage of the plethora of opportunities presented here to me. I truly encourage you to consider all of your options when making a decision for your future, and understand that no matter where you go, you’ll have a remarkable experience.  – Jenna Borrelli, University of Minnesota Class of 2017

And they can bring out emotions.

I still remember the day I received my rejection from S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications from Syracuse University, while I ended up getting admitted to Syracuse University just not Newhouse I was really upset when I received my letter. By now I am in my second year at the University of Maryland and my dream of attending Newhouse seems like a distance memory. They say everything happens for a reason and I truly believe it because I have great success at Maryland thus far. Jessica Nocera, University of Maryland-College Park Class of 2017

But what is remarkable is that in the ending, this process is nostalgic at worst.  Your life shapes itself around the college you end up attending, and even if it be not among your “dream schools,” do note that the ample research you did on where you want to go will never amount to the experience of moving into somewhere new and becoming part of a culture you never predicted.

I didn’t know of St. John’s University until a year ago, when I did, I did not look anywhere else. I took the initiative of coming here. Things fall in place for you. It is up to you to see that they stay together and do whatever is to be done to keep them intact. The best part? It’s all a part of a beautiful learning process. From the moment I saw the name of my university for the first time – till the moment I got accepted here. It’s all about learning and making others happy while you smile along all the way. – Abhishek Joshi, St. Johns University Class of 2018

And often the memory of getting into any school is ingrained in our head forever:

I remember that moment as if it only happened yesterday. My hand was shaking over the mouse, as I was about to click on the decision page. I repeated over and over to myself its okay if I don’t get in to my dream school. There is always regular decision! When the page loaded and my eyes laid on the word ‘congratulations’ screams and tears of joy and utter surprise came flooding in. A year later, here I am preparing for finals in my first semester at college. Life is beautifully unexpected and while I got very lucky in my ED result, I truly believe that D-day is a blessing in disguise for everyone. If you get in- celebrate! if not, you are one step closer to finding the right fit! – Shirin Chen, Brown University Class of 2018

College applications are stressful but they are not terminating – often it almost seems like fate guided you to go to the place you were best suited for, even if you didn’t realize it before.

I remember being admitted to Yale-NUS a day after being deferred from my dream school, not fully appreciating the fact that I had been accepted to one of the most selective schools in the world. Never would I have imagined spending the next four years of my life in Singapore, but here I am a semester in, and I truly cannot imagine myself anywhere else. We all have dreams going into the college admissions process, but more often than not, the reality that follows — whether in our dreams schools or elsewhere — exceeds all expectations. – Kaushik Swaminathan, Yale-NUS College, Class of 2018

College decisions even could be a sign for something else!

Getting deferred from Harvard made me realize that my dream school was truly Columbia. I’m so happy I ended up at Columbia because it is truly the perfect place for me. While the college process can be extremely stressful, it is important to remember that everything happens for a reason. – Nicole Felmus, Columbia University Class of 2018

And we come to realize our dream school would involve forgoing the dreams we made elsewhere, some we would refuse to relinquish.

Stanford was my dream school. I though it was absolutely perfect for me, and I remember thinking in my interview that I belonged there. After applying restrictive early action and getting rejected, I was incredibly discouraged. Several rejections and a couple acceptances later, I ended up at a school I never considered I would actually attend. After this first quarter, I have realized that Northwestern is truly the perfect place for me. -Manon Blackman Northwestern University Class of 2018

This talk may sound awfully wishy-washy, but remember that no matter what, undergraduates today are united beyond just college lines.  Remember that you will, no matter what, become part of a generation of students across the country, be it from an urban metropolis like New York or a small college town in the Midwest. But in the ending, college decisions often strike a human chord:

My mother cried.  It meant a lot to her and my father, potentially even more than it could possibly mean to me.  I grew up in the United States, and going to college was something always on my mind.  I was elated when I was accepted into my top pick, but it was my parents who were elated that they chose the right move by immigrating here decades ago, leaving their past lives in their home country of Sri Lanka.  It is sometimes that moment that feels most special: realizing you did something that changed not only your life, but emotionally the lives of those you hold most dear.  -Mathew Pregasen, Columbia University Class of 2018

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  • Kim Burley

    Love 😀

  • Frances Kim

    This is an incredible piece. I hope I get into Columbia tomorrow. I am actually really nervous. If I don’t get in I feel like I lose my whole winter just to feel like a reject.

    • Manon

      Don’t feel like a reject if you don’t get in! Wherever you end up, you will realize that it is truly the best for you. Just because you don’t get into one school you shouldn’t discredit all of the hard work you have put in!

      • af

        How can every school be the best for you? That doesn’t even make any sense. I’m probably gonna be rejected Saturday, but I’m under no delusions that everything else will be just as “perfect” for me.

        • Anonymous

          You’re right, unfortunately–there are many people who don’t get into any top schools (let alone their “dream school”). Of course, that certainly doesn’t mean you should feel like a reject; understand that admissions is often an unfair process, and it can seem almost random whether someone does or doesn’t get into a school.

          There are two mindsets in the admissions process to avoid: the first is that you will only be satisfied with your “dream school,” and the other is that you will be equally happy wherever you go. Both are flatly wrong. In high school, I was so fed up with the GPA-obsessed, college-driven atmosphere around me that I bought into the latter view. In the end, I was rejected from every school I applied to except the not-so-great safety school I now attend. Try to avoid that mistake, and put a good effort into making sure you’re accepted into at least one school that will provide an academic challenge for you. At the same time, if you get into a school that will not bore you but still isn’t your “dream school,” please don’t be disappointed.

          To be honest, it’s pretty pretentious to talk about unexpectedly falling in love with an Ivy or other top school other than your dream school–as if to say that you ended up okay after facing the supposedly “horrible” prospect of attending a different world-renowned university–or to say that “everything happens for a reason.” It doesn’t. The only advice I really have is that you divorce your sense of self-worth from the admissions game, because it really is just that–a game.