The University of Pennsylvania. Image from Wikipedia.

The University of Pennsylvania. Image from Wikipedia.

College was always in the back of my mind while I was growing up. As the daughter of Chinese immigrants, my parents always emphasized the importance of an education. They wanted me to have a better life than they did, and they firmly believed that the way to do so was to attend a prestigious college. Thus, the majority of my childhood was filled with talks about GPA, class rank, SAT scores, and college rankings. On top of that, my mom was always researching different colleges and their pros and cons. My parents also had a lot of Asian friends who had older children, and so my parents would always talk about their accomplishments and the amazing colleges they ended up attending. Clearly, college was something I was pretty well-informed about.

Middle School to Sophomore Year

Sophomore year was pretty strange. At the time, I was set on becoming a history professor. I was also still on my “ew-boys-are-annoying” phase (not that I’m not anymore…). I was all about being an independent woman, being single for the rest of my life, and becoming a panda lady (not a cat lady–cats freaked me out). I had also visited Boston when I was in fifth grade, and I was obsessed with the town. I loved the historical aspects of the area and what it could bring in my quest to become a history professor. Thus, my sights were set on Wellesley College, a small liberal arts college in Wellesley, MA. What made it even better was that it was a women’s college. I did not have to deal with the stinky boys I so detested.

Funny thing about this whole period of time is that I had never even seen a picture of the campus. All my notions about the school were based upon experiences of my parents’ friends’ daughters. I knew absolutely nothing about the history department of the school. I just liked it because I did not know about any other schools other than Harvard, Yale, and Princeton. Besides, it had a great reputation among the Chinese community, because Soong May-Ling had attended the school. I spent a good four years fixated on attending a school I knew absolutely nothing about.

Junior Year

The summer before junior year, I attended a summer program called the Pennsylvania School for Global Entrepreneurship (PSGE) at Lehigh University. Honestly, at the time I had absolutely no interest in entrepreneurship or business for that matter. The only reasons I even bothered applying to the program was because my mother said it was a former governor’s school and that my friend had attended the program and said it was a fun experience. I was (somehow) accepted to the program (off of the waitlist, since a girl from Pakistan could not get a visa), and I was off to Lehigh University for four weeks.

I remember there was one lecture that stood out to me–it was the economics lecture. I found the idea of economics so fascinating, because it seemed like it was associated with everything. So I made a 180 degree turn and decided to shift my aspirations toward economics and possibly business. Another reason for this shift was that my parents were afraid that I would not make it as a history professor and that I needed a more “practical” career.

After that summer, I began looking into undergraduate business schools and fixated my efforts on the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Business. Reasons for this were that it was super high-ranked (pleasing to the parents) and it was very close to home. I was so set on the school that I ended up planning to apply there early decision. Looking at the early decision rates, I found that the acceptance rate was almost double the regular decision rate. On top of that, they took more Pennsylvania residents. It looked like I had a decent shot.

Then came standardized testing. Unlike many of my Asian friends, I did not attend a hardcore standardized testing program over the summer (I was at PSGE nerd camp). Thus, when I took my SATs in January of junior year, my scores were not as high as those of my peers. This led to much conflict between myself and my parents. My parents constantly complained about my scores. I took the SAT again in May. However, I felt so uncomfortable with my test that I cancelled the scores. Then, I took them again in June. My score dropped 150 points, so I decided not to take the SAT again. I soon realized that I did not have time for my subject tests and that I would have to take them in October of senior year, i.e., I was going to be cutting the early decision deadline very close.

Senior Year

The summer before senior year, I was still set on attending Wharton. Thus, I studied for my subject tests hoping that I would perform well enough to offset my lower SAT scores. I busied myself with perfecting my CommonApp essay as well as my Penn supplements. When October rolled around, I took my subject tests and I was set to hit the submit button. Unfortunately, my test scores were significantly lower than what I had expected (like 200-300 points lower). My master plan to apply early decision failed. I was distraught and just did not know what to do. This led to a month of self-loathing and disappointment. Fortunately, I had completed some early action and safety school applications to submit.

Upon some deeper research, I found that Penn accepted ACT scores without subject tests, so I busied myself in preparing for December ACTs. Unfortunately, I had never prepared for them before and had to send them to a bunch of colleges before I could see my scores because the application deadlines were fast-approaching. December was the most stressful time for me. I had decided to apply to 19 schools and I was still taking standardized tests. Somehow I made it through, but then commenced the waiting.

I was rejected by five schools, accepted to nine, and waitlisted by five. One of the five I was waitlisted by was UPenn. I took all my waitlists as rejections because I knew that it was super competitive. Of the nine was accepted to, none of them were extremely appealing. There were drawbacks to all of them–I just was not in love. I ended up narrowing down my choices between Bowdoin College and Wellesley again (full circle!). After I visited both schools, I knew Wellesley was the school for me. I just felt so at home. Having the women’s college experience was so different and unique, and I knew that I would not get that anywhere else. In addition to that, the Wellesley women’s network is massive and I knew that finding a job after college would not be super difficult. Thus, on April 30th, I submitted my deposit.

Then on May 13th, I received an email from the University of Pennsylvania. I was accepted off of the waitlist. I had mixed feelings about it. I was in love with Wellesley. It just felt so home-y to me. However, after much deliberation and discussion regarding finances with my parents, I decided to attend the University of Pennsylvania. I have mixed feelings about the whole situation. Wellesley will always have that special place in my heart. I can’t say that I am unhappy though. College admissions has been a crazy journey, and I am just glad that it is finally over.



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the author

Jenny Zhang is a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania, who is thinking about majoring in economics (but that is definitely not set in stone). She has many talents such as falling asleep anywhere at any time (this can be verified by her roommate) and procrastinating. Jenny likes to spend a lot of her time on YouTube watching baby videos and obsessing over anything Jeremy Lin-related while eating various forms of food that are high in sugar and/or fat. She is currently trying to learn how to play Ultimate Frisbee to avoid the Freshman 15 and attempting to perfect her street-crossing techniques. Her spirit animal is a panda. You can follow her on Twitter @JenKnee_Z

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  1. A on July 5, 2014

    Very inspirational! 🙂

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