I don’t remember when my college admissions journey started, but for as long as I can remember, I have always wanted to go to Yale. Whether it was the beautiful architecture, the prestige of the school, or the glorification of Yale in the mass media that made me want to go there—I’m not sure. However, as the summer before my senior year approached, I realized that I needed to diversify my college list.
The College List
When I was doing my college search, I had no idea what I wanted to do in college. I had different ideas of what I wanted to be, but I was never definite in any of those ideas. My mindset when applying to college was: “Go big or go home.” I would apply to the best programs at each of the schools I applied to, because I wanted to have the best education for myself.
One of the ideas I had was going into international relations or international business. Schools that ultimately ended up on my list were Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, USC’s World Bachelor in Business program, NYU’s Business and Political Economy program, and University of Pennsylvania’s Huntsman Program.
The summer before my senior year, I was also able to go on a road trip of East Coast colleges, which was really a visit to most of the Ivy Leagues. As a result, I added another slew of Ivy Leagues to my list.
During my senior year, I continued to expand my list. As a QuestBridge College Prep Scholar, I had been introduced to fly-in programs and was able to visit Bowdoin College and Amherst College. In the end, I added those two to my list, including Williams College.
In addition, I also added to Northwestern University to my list. My sister had graduated from Northwestern not too long ago, and I had visited the campus and loved the atmosphere at Northwestern. With my “go big or go home” attitude, I decided that I would apply to Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism.
My final five schools were California schools. I ended up adding UC Berkeley, UC Los Angeles, UC Irvine, UC San Diego, and Stanford to my list.
As I researched more about all of these different schools, I thought that the Huntsman Program, a dual degree program in business and international studies (a field that incorporates cultures, linguistics, as well as global societies into international relations) at Penn, would be the best fit for me. Eventually, I decided to apply Early Decision, hoping to maximize my chances of getting in.
The Early Decision Process
After narrowing (or expanding) my list, I knew where I wanted to apply. Since I was applying to Penn ED, I focused all of my attention on writing essays that I hoped would get me in. In the end, my essays weren’t great, but I was too lazy to edit them. (Don’t let that be you!) My school had our annual game with our cross-town rivals on the same day the Penn Common App was due, so I thought, “YOLO”, submitted my application, and left for the game.
By mid-December, I received my results from Penn. I was in the school library after school, and I logged into the Penn portal, hoping for the best. As the page loaded and I read the screen, I was crushed. I had been rejected from Penn.
The Regular Decision Process
Before I had received my results from Penn, I had finished my UC application, which was due at the end of November. I spent a lot of time on these essays, since I had learned how important it was to start early. I submitted the application, hoping for the best, despite knowing that I desperately wanted to go to an out-of-state school.
After being rejected from Penn, I realized that the main reason I was crushed was that I had to spend my entire winter break writing essays. Despite knowing that I had submitted lackluster essays, I had been hoping for a miracle and had only started only two or three of the 15+ supplements I needed to work on. However, I’m glad that I was rejected from Penn ED, since I knew that I had to change my Common App essay to reflect myself better.
Let me just say that you want to get a head start on all of your essays. I was able to reuse some of my supplements, but a lot of my topics were unique, so I spent a lot of time coming up with ideas, trashing those ideas, attempting to come up with new ideas, and then ending up with the original ideas that I had trashed. By the first of January, I had submitted all of my college applications, except for my Georgetown application. For the Georgetown application, one of the essays had a similar prompt to the one for the Huntsman Program and, despite knowing how bad my Huntsman essays were, I reused that essay and submitted the last of my applications.
My first acceptance came in February, when I was notified that I had been chosen as a candidate for a Regent’s Scholarship at UC Berkeley, the most prestigious scholarship that can be awarded by a UC campus. I was overjoyed, to say the least. To be accepted by UC Berkeley so early on in the game was a dream come true. Things went pretty well afterwards, as acceptances started trickling in. I heard back from all of the UCs, Bowdoin College, and Northwestern University. Thankfully, it was all good news.
It wasn’t until I got my decision back from Williams that I began to be worried. I was waitlisted, and it was the day before Ivy decisions came out. By then, I think I began to accept the fact that my chances of getting into an Ivy were slim to none.
The next day, I came home from school, hoping for the best but expecting the worst. As I opened each portal, I saw my decisions. Rejected. Rejected. Rejected. The last two schools that I looked at were Columbia and Yale, and I was waitlisted at both. I was crushed, but I wasn’t too surprised. I ate some Coldstone ice cream, accepted my spot on all three waitlists, and moved on with my life.
Around this time, I also heard back from Amherst College, USC, and NYU. I had been accepted to all three, but I hadn’t been accepted to NYU’s Business and Political Economy program. A few days later, I found out that I had been rejected from Stanford and waitlisted by Georgetown. After accepting my spot on the waitlist, I knew that I had to make a choice.
After being waitlisted, I spent some time drafting my letter of interest for the schools I was on the waitlist for. I wanted them to know that I was still interested and would be excited to attend their institution.
A lot of things went on during the period from hearing back from Georgetown to May 1. However, I narrowed down my list to Amherst College, UC Berkeley, Northwestern University, and USC’s World Bachelor in Business (WBB) program.
I wanted to go to Amherst because it was a small, private liberal arts college on the East Coast. The open curriculum was appealing, as well as its academic prestige. I had visited for a fly-in program, and I liked the campus. However, I didn’t know if I could see myself living in such an isolated area with such a small amount of people.
I wanted to go to UC Berkeley because, even though it was in-state, it was far enough from home to be independent. Being touted as the best public university in the world didn’t hurt either. Other students from my school were going there, and I would know people before arriving on campus (which was arguably a good and bad thing).
I wanted to go to Northwestern because I had visited before, and I knew I liked the campus. Being accepted into Medill wasn’t too shabby either. In addition, after attending an academic preview of Medill, I knew that the program encouraged students to obtain a broad liberal arts education, which facilitated the double majoring process.
I wanted to go to USC because it was a unique opportunity. The WBB program allows a student to spend one year at USC, one year at HKUST in Hong Kong, one year at Bocconi University in Milan, and then one last year at their choice of one of the previous three institutions. It was a very business-focused education which enrolled only 50 students in the program.
In the end, Amherst was too isolated for me, and I was worried about the distance from campus to the airport, among other factors. UC Berkeley was too close to home, and I decided that I wanted to have a fresh start in college. USC was too radical of a change for me, and I wanted a traditional four-year college experience at one institution, not three.
You might be wondering about my positions on the four waitlists of Yale, Columbia, Williams, and Georgetown. I ended up being taken off the waitlists of Yale and Columbia, since they both had exceptionally high yields this year. I still haven’t heard back from Williams, and the financial aid package that Georgetown was offering me wasn’t enticing enough for me to accept a position in their class of 2018.
Although it was a long and arduous process, I’m happy to say that I’m going to be a Northwestern Wildcat in the fall, double majoring in Journalism and the Mathematical Methods in the Social Sciences. I’m excited to see what the future has in store for me, and I’m glad to be having a traditional college experience in a part of the country that I never thought I would end up in!
Off the bat, it definitely seems like I applied to a lot of schools (which, in all fairness, I did). However, I don’t regret it at all. I liked having different options to choose from, and with admissions becoming increasingly competitive, I think it’s necessary for people to apply to several schools, especially if they’re applying to top universities and colleges.
In addition, if I hadn’t applied to a variety of schools, I may have been pigeonholed into something that I didn’t actually want to do. For example, going into the application process, I was very excited about applying Early Decision to Penn, because I convinced myself that international relations was what I was going to do. However, I’m glad that I didn’t get in, since I realized that I wasn’t interested in studying business in college. Being rejected also forced me to realize that my essays weren’t perfect and that they required serious reworking. If I hadn’t had that experience, I might not have had all the different options I had to choose from.