From the time I was little, New York University was always on my radar. My mom, dad, aunt, uncle, and grandfather all, at some point in their undergraduate/graduate years, attended NYU. Furthermore, I wanted to be an actor up until the early part of my junior year, so NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts was always a goal of mine. When I shied away from acting, I decided I wanted to go into public relations. Thus, during my junior and senior years of high school, I built my list around colleges that had strong communications programs in addition to schools I could see myself being happy at. Up until August going into my senior year, NYU remained my clear number one.
As I’ve mentioned in a past article, I only visited three schools before applying (and after being accepted). The reason for this was simple: money. I am a twin, and putting one child through college can be a struggle, let alone two at the same time. Thus, my parents’ policy was that I was only allowed to visit a school if A) It was close enough to home to visit by train or a relatively short car ride and/or B) Without any financial aid, I would be able to attend. NYU fell into category A. Despite obvious hesitance from my parents, I fell in love with the school the first time I visited. Not only was New York City the place to be for my major, but the strong alumni network, study abroad opportunities, and award-winning professors made me fall head over heals. There was only one problem: with such a hefty price tag, I would only be allowed to attend if I received a scholarship or federal grant. I was advised multiple times by my parents and college advisor to take NYU off my list, since it was notorious for not being generous in the financial aid department. So, even though I wanted (and begged) to apply Early Decision, I applied Regular Decision and hoped for the best.
As for the aforementioned category B, my dad and I took a road trip to see SUNY Binghamton and Cornell University in late August. As a state school, Binghamton was cheap enough that I would be allowed to go without any sort of financial aid. Additionally, Cornell, while a private school, has certain land-grant schools where New York residents can pay approximately $16,000 less in tuition right off the bat. This put the school at the upper range of what my parents could afford, and, thus, I was allowed to visit. When I saw Binghamton I liked it, but I didn’t love it. It might have been the fact that I visited on a dreary day or that I had high expectations of what a campus should look like. Either way, I wasn’t as in love with Binghamton as I was with NYU. It also did not offer an official communications major (it fell within the English department), so that made me even more inclined to dislike it.
On the other hand, I fell in love with Cornell. I can still vividly remember the sunset that provided the perfect backdrop for the picturesque campus during that late August evening. Not only was I infatuated with Cornell for its campus, but also the fact that it was a school with sports and a better sense of community and cohesion, in addition to its prestige (something I now regret focusing on). Better yet, the communications major fell within one of the land-grant schools.
After my visit, Cornell was tied with NYU for the number one spot on my college list, despite how different they were. Knowing NYU was out of the question for ED, I begged my parents to allow me to apply ED to Cornell. Not only would I have loved to go to the school, but it had a higher ED than RD acceptance rate (and since Cornell was an upper-target/reach for me, applying ED would have increased my chances of getting in). My parents, still hesitant about finances, decided to deliberate it for some time. While they did that, I finished up most of my other applications. When my parents finally agreed to let me apply ED to Cornell, I had already applied to approximately 14 or 15 out of my eventual 16 schools. I sent in my Cornell app and finished up the couple of applications that were left.
Fast-forward to late December: Cornell’s ED notification day. I remember sitting in the library, opening the portal, and seeing my decision. I was deferred. While some of my friends celebrated their acceptances to Cornell during the next few weeks, I worked on a letter to send to the admissions office, updating my admissions counselor about my new achievements I had since the time I applied. After editing it countless times, I sent in my letter to show my continued interest and love for the school.
Even before the admissions process began, many of my friends told me that “everything happens for a reason.” To this day, I doubt that everything happens for a reason, but I’m certain there was a fate-related reason for my deferral. One night when I couldn’t fall asleep, I contemplated my options and realized that by not getting accepted ED, I would be able to find out what would happen with NYU. In a perfect world, I dreamt of being accepted to Cornell and NYU, with enough scholarship/grant money from NYU to make it a possibility. I would then have to make a tough decision: NYU or Cornell — a decision I would be happy to have. However, this was just a dream and I still had many months before this dream could even become a possibility.
The worst part about the admissions process (in my eyes) was the waiting, especially since Cornell and NYU were the last two schools I would hear from. As March approached, I started to get incredibly worried. I was rejected/waitlisted from all of my reach schools, as I anticipated; I was accepted to all of my target schools, but with too little financial aid to make any of them a possibility (with the exception of SUNY Binghamton, but you already know that story); and I was accepted to all of my safeties with enough financial aid, but I wasn’t super excited at the prospect of attending any of them. Thus, March 28 and 29 were the two most nerve-wracking days of my life.
On March 28th, I opened Cornell’s online portal to find out I was offered a transfer option. While I had mixed feelings, I ultimately decided that I was grateful for the fact that Cornell wanted me, even if I had to wait a year. The good thing about the transfer option was that I would only have to take general education requirements (not courses for my major), so I would be able to attend Binghamton for my freshman year and not worry about it not having my major (or taking a toll on finances).
Before making a decision about Cornell, I had to hear back from NYU. Not that there is anything wrong with attending a state or safety school, but this was my last hope of attending not only one of my target schools, but one of my dream schools. I anxiously opened the email I received midday on March 29th… and found out I was accepted! I immediately called one of my best friends who, while beyond ecstatic for me, reminded me to check my financial aid reward. With a knot in my stomach, I hung up and logged onto the online portal to see if NYU was meant to be.
It was. I was offered a scholarship and work-study that covered roughly half of my tuition, way beyond what my family and I were expecting. I immediately flashed back to the numerous times I was advised to not even apply to NYU because of finances and simply smiled to myself as I showed my dad my financial aid package. With my scholarship/work-study, NYU cost about what a land-grant school at Cornell would have been. I ended up not having the option between Cornell and NYU as I had hoped, but this was pretty damn close. While in my mind finances worked out, my parents had to make a huge decision, one that would affect the next four years (and beyond) of my/their lives.
One night in April, I sat in my room studying for my upcoming AP exams when my dad came in. I looked up at him as he laid an NYU car decal on my desk. “Go put it on the car,” he said. Overjoyed, I rushed down to my car and put the decal on my back window. That was it. I was going to NYU.
It’s funny how fate works out sometimes.