Image from StockSnap

Image from StockSnap

So, I can finally say that I’ve survived my college admissions season. Of the sixteen schools I applied to, I was accepted into fourteen of them (I was waitlisted at Grinnell and rejected by Middlebury, which is coincidentally the only school I interviewed for). I can’t say I’m entirely surprised since I applied to a wide range of safety schools (more on that later), but I guess I didn’t think my decision would be so difficult. I’ve got such a huge range of schools to pick from, and I’ve narrowed it down to two: Columbia and UCLA.

It’s going to be a tough decision for me to make, but I’m glad to be making it.

Last month, I wrote about how excited I was to tell you all where I’d be going to college. I was fairly convinced that my decision wouldn’t be too difficult. Over the past few months, I referred to “my dream school,” but never identified it. I was pretty confident that I would get into my dream school (which I did!). But I also got into three other schools that I’ve fallen in love with over the past month.
The dream school, that I’ve been pining over for the last year is UCLA. Los Angeles has been, for the last year and half, the only city I could envision myself living in for the next four years. I applied to four schools in the Los Angeles area, but could really only see myself going to UCLA.
I built up this huge fantasy of me getting into UCLA and sending in my SIR as soon as I finished reading the acceptance letter.

It didn’t quite go like that.

The night before UCLA decisions came out, my mom was driving me home from rehearsal (and before you ask, yes, I have a license, I just hate driving myself to school). As we drove down the old and run-down side streets surrounding my high school campus, I noticed an email from the Columbia Office of Undergraduate Admissions. The subject was, “Visit Columbia.”

I didn’t think much of it, because I get a lot of those types of emails. As I was reading it though, something seemed different ― they were offering to fly me out to New York City to attend one of their admitted students’ weekends.

“Mom, I think I got into Columbia,” I murmured. Later that night, I was checking my emails, to find that a ‘likely letter’, notifying me early of my admission to Columbia, had gone to my spam email. It was confirmed ― I’d gotten into Columbia!

A lot of thoughts ran through my mind that evening, but the one that kept coming back to me was “What about UCLA?”

The next day was kind of a big one for my college admissions process. It was the day that UCLA decisions were rumored to be going out. Grinnell, the sort of random liberal arts college that I applied to last minute, was also supposed to come out that day. At three o’clock, I found out I’d gotten waitlisted at Grinnell.

That kind of shook my confidence for UCLA. But I got into Columbia. And lo and behold, two hours later, as my family and I drove downtown to get dinner that night, I checked my UCLA application portal ― “Guys, I got into UCLA!” I proclaimed.

Growing up, when people asked me where I wanted to go to college, I’d always said I didn’t really know. By eighth grade though, I had pretty clearly decided I wanted to go to Columbia. I mean, it was in New York City, and it was an Ivy League school ― what more could a nerdy, gifted fourteen year-old kid want? That dream of going to Columbia pretty much lasted until the first time I set foot on the UCLA campus.

But getting into Columbia sort of rekindled that dream. I’ve been researching it a lot lately, and my appreciation for it goes much deeper than it did when I first decided I wanted to go there. The Core Curriculum sounds a little bit tough, but doable; I love the wide variety of foreign language classes offered; and the fact that the school manages to integrate so many different courses into the city is amazing.

Don’t get me wrong, I still love UCLA. But now I’m sort of confused. I don’t have a clear cut top school anymore. Do I want the rigidity of the Core at Columbia or do I want the more flexible GE’s at UCLA? Do I want to go to an entirely new state where I won’t know anybody, or do I want to stay in California to go to a school where a lot of my classmates are going? I honestly don’t know. I’m going to a Columbia Admitted Students reception in San Francisco this weekend (since I can’t visit New York on such short notice) and Bruin Day next weekend. Hopefully those’ll help me decide. If not, I’ll have to just flip a coin.

My advice to any juniors reading this: don’t apply to more than one or two safeties. That’s all you really need. Save your energy and apply to a couple more reaches than you would have originally. Because you might find yourself in my situation, and it’s a pretty nice one to be in.

I kind of went way overboard applying to safety schools. When I look at my college list, I see at least seven schools that I could have considered safeties, and of those seven schools, there are only two that I could realistically see myself going to. Knowing what I know now, I really wish I had cut down on those safeties and applied to a few more selective schools. There are a lot of schools that I can see myself at that I didn’t apply to, simply because I thought they were too hard to get into ― schools like Stanford and Brown (both of which I absolutely love).

In hindsight, I think I would have dropped schools like San Diego State and Northridge State from my list. I would have put more energy into schools that I really and truly liked, even if I thought I couldn’t get into them. Because I never would have imagined that I would be in this position.

Although I have my regrets about applying to so many safety schools, I am ecstatic to be making this choice. It feels good to have so many options, to know that your four top-choice schools all want you back. And I’m grateful to be able to make this choice. I know that I can’t go wrong. And that’s awesome.

So, I don’t know where I’m going to be next year. It’s either New York or Los Angeles ― the two cities couldn’t be more different, but I love them both. And I can’t wait to let you all know where I’m going next month.

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