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My College Admissions Story

akordsakords Registered User Posts: 6 New Member
Hello everyone. Now that my college process is all but over, I decided to just share my experiences about dealing with rejection, settling for a safety school, and just general advice for anyone who may be interested. My story is certainly not unique but I just wanted to get it out there and this is the perfect forum to do that.

I've always been the type of kid who succeeded without trying; a gifted slacker, as some would say. My grades throughout high school were good but not great, a few B's here and there dragged me down to about a 3.6 GPA. Still, I was involved in many school activities, had an interesting background, and had a solid amount d natural intelligence - hence why I did so well on standardized tests.

I got a 2300 on my SAT I midway through junior year, and I realized I could start looking at some really selective schools with a score like that (I hadn't really looked into college application before that). So I became the kid who spent every waking second involved in the college process. In the course of ~6 months, I visited 24 schools (flew out to CA and IL just to visit them, I live in CT),retook my SAT II's 3 times, and started stacking my resume. I was confident that I had a good chance, with my stats, of acceptance to a great school.

In the beginning of senior year, I worked my ass off. I pulled my GPA up to a 3.8 UW, scored 740+ on my SAT II's, got a job, worked on my essays and supplements for MONTHS, etc etc. I ended up applying to 20 schools (yes, 20 - thank you, common app), with a healthy mix of reaches, safeties, and matches. At this point I'll break off a little bit just to give my hard stats and my list of schools, which I guess is what most people actually want to see.

Stats:
SAT I: 2300 - 760 CR 740 M 800 W
GPA: 3.8/4.0
Course load: All AP/Honors classes
AP Classes: Lang (5), Psych (5), Calc AB, US History, Lit
Class Rank: N/A
SAT II's: 740 M2, 770 Lit
EC: Varsity Tennis Captain/1 Singles, Key Club Vice President, Band Section Leader, School Newspaper, Dragons in Action (CC), Freshman Orientation Leader, Upward Bound for 6 years, Crew, Piano for 5 years, Part-Time paid job, DECA - 1st place at State Competition, more
Hooks/Essay: 1st generation immigrant from Russia, bilingual
Recs: good, not staggering

I thought I had a solid chance of attending one of my many elite schools. However, I would soon learn how to deal with rejection. I got into 6 of my 20 schools, and none of my reaches or matches. For those interested in a full list,

Reaches:
Stanford - EA R
Harvard - R (interview)
Yale - R (interview)
UPenn - R
Princeton - R (interview)
Brown - R (dream school)
Columbia - R
Northwestern - R
UC Berkeley - R
UCLA - R

Matches:
USC - R
NYU - R
Tufts - R
Boston College - W

Safeties:
Northeastern - A
Boston University - A
UVM Honors - A
UMass Amherst Honors - A
Bentley Honors - A
UConn Honors - A

I can tell you it was not easy to receive 13 rejection letters in the span of a week. Seeing all your dreams crushed before your eyes is not a good feeling. Not to mention one of my best friends is our valedictorian, she got into MIT and Yale. For a while, I was lost. I never envisioned myself picking from the 6 schools I actually did get into. I spent about another month on intensive research and multiple campus visits to all these schools and eventually narrowed it down to Northeastern and UConn Honors, my flagship. Side note: money was not an issue - all the schools I got into gave me very generous merit aid, and my father receives tuition benefits for my education from his place of work (a highly regarded LAC).

When it came down to it, I chose UConn. The Honors program greatly impressed me, as did their business school and career services, two of the things most important to me. But in the end, I picked UConn because it just felt right. Of the schools I got into, UConn was the only one I felt at home at. I went against many things when choosing it. Rankings, family opinion, location, the fact that EVERYONE from my school goes to UConn, etc. So if that's the only thing people get from this post, it's that. Pick the school that feels right to you. In the end, that's what decides if you will be happy there. Not US News and World Report.

I certainly gained a lot of personal knowledge from this process. I'm sure there are many students out there like me, who are just unaccustomed to failure. I was used to being successful because of my inherent intelligence, which is why my stream of rejections hit me like a freight train. I tried to blame it on various things - I'm a white middle class male from CT, went to a public school, no legacy (my VD friend had legacy and connections at Yale), but in the end none of that matters. Sitting around feeling sorry for yourself won't get you an acceptance. I realize that now. As cliche as it may sound, life sucks and you will have a LOT of problems thrown at you. It's making the most of them that counts. I'm sure anyone in my situation has heard it a thousand times before - "make the most out of college wherever you go", and as overused as that may be, I've become inspired by it. Did I deserve to get into better schools? I think so. Did I foresee myself going to my 17th choice? No. But will I make the most of it? Absolutely.

I plan on working myself to the bone at UConn. I want to distinguish myself from the 29,999 other kids who go there. I want a 4.0. I want internships. I want to join organizations, start clubs, play sports, be INVOLVED. I want to come out of college with a stacked resume, impressive credentials, and the tools and work ethic I need to go on to grad school and get an MBA. That's my mission. And in the end it doesn't matter if I go to Harvard or Eastern CT State. What matters is what I make of it.

I'm sorry for the long-winded post and I appreciate anyone who actually takes the time to read it all. I just really wanted to get my story out there, especially since college admissions are getting more and more rigorous each year, and every year there thousands of qualified applicants like me who have to face disappointment head-on. This isn't meant to discourage anyone from applying to their dream school, just my personal experience. If anyone gets anything positive from this post, I'll be happy because I can't so much about my situation, but I can try to help others deal with theirs. Thanks guys and good luck to everyone in their respective futures!

Replies to: My College Admissions Story

  • lanflanlanflan Registered User Posts: 133 Junior Member
    Glad to see everything worked out for you! There's nothing wrong with going to a state honors college, you're right in saying it's what you make of it. But as an unimpressive-but-high-stat student....this terrifies me :((
  • arwarwarwarw Registered User Posts: 1,285 Senior Member
    Thanks for posting. Very interesting.

    If Brown was your dream school, why didn't you apply ED?

    What do you estimate your rank to be? top 10%?

    Did you spend time with teachers on your recs? How were your essays?

    Any advice for others? Lessons learned?

    Did you consider selective schools a little bit off the beaten path for a NE kid? Grinell, Pomona, Harvey Mudd, Rice, Davidson etc..
  • akordsakords Registered User Posts: 6 New Member
    @arwarw‌
    I loved Stanford and Brown equally, but Brown only had ED whereas Stanford had EA, and I didn't think I was ready to commit fully to a single school, so I chose to apply to Stanford early.

    I'm definitely in the top 10% of my class (so top 30 of 300), and I'm pretty sure I am in the top 5%. My school does not rank so it's hard to say for certain.

    As for essays, I went over them with multiple teachers I trusted, including the two best English teachers at my school and my college counselor, who all know me well. This goes for my CA essay, Cal app essays, and supplements. For recs, I got them from teachers who knew me very well academically and my Upward Bound counselor, who has known me closely for years. Like I said, they weren't out of this world, but I read them and they were definitely solid rec letters.

    Like I said before, my advice to others is to just be ready for the fact that there are thousands of people just like you applying for spots at top schools, and there's a chance that you'll be very disappointed. But I just don't think people should let that disappointment carry on for too long. Chances are that people with similar stats to me will have their pick of good schools, even if they are not top-tier. The important part is that wherever you go, you work as hard as you can. If you're an overqualified applicant who ends up going to a safety school, you have what it takes to be at the top of your class. That's what I aim to do, so I can distinguish myself from the pack and have a successful life. If that makes sense lol.

    As for other schools, I did not apply to any LAC's. This is due to the fact that they are almost exclusively in rural/suburban areas, and I was initially set on attending college in or near a big city, as you can see from my list (although ironically, I ended up at UConn, which is in cow country). Also, since I plan on majoring in business, a LAC would not be the best place for me. Many do not even have business majors, and research universities have much more influence in the corporate world regarding internships and the like. I am a fan of the LAC philosophy of a well-rounded education, but for my career interests, it's just not as practical.

    I hope that answers your questions!
  • LizardlyLizardly Registered User Posts: 2,229 Senior Member
    Thanks for sharing. Life is a marathon, not a sprint. It sounds like you were slower to mature and realize what you wanted and to start working hard, but now you have awakened and your life awaits. Good luck at UConn. I think you will be very successful.
  • LeylandLeyland Registered User Posts: 358 Member
    Yes, thank you very much for sharing your story -- so far. You have many more chapters to live and write about, and it's pretty clear you are going places. I think it's remarkable that you took the time to reflect. UConn is a really good school. Do phenomenally well your first year, figure out if it's where you want to be going forward, and then plan a course to transfer for your last two years. It's very, very do-able, and far easier a process than what you have gone through. Also, as I reread your initial post, what sticks out is your description of recommendations as good, not staggering. Only you know what is behind that description; so, work on that and form good relationships with your UConn profs.
  • Willow613Willow613 Registered User Posts: 39 Junior Member
    Thank you for sharing this reflection. Everyone knows how hard it is to get into top tier schools. Perhaps thinking about the fact that 95% of applicants were rejected from Stanford this year (as opposed to how many were accepted) is a more sobering statistic. As the admissions officers all say (and I believe them). "We could fill the class 3 times over with absolutely qualified applicants." You must not take it personally. The rejection has lit a fire in your belly. Now go light up the world!
  • oldfortoldfort Registered User Posts: 21,017 Senior Member
    I see you didn't apply to Cornell AEM, maybe you thought it was too rural. They are very transfer friendly. If finance is not an issue, you may want to consider transfer to Cornell if UConn should not work out. My kid also wanted to go to a school in a city, but she ended up at Cornell and loved her 4 years there.
  • trackmbe3trackmbe3 Registered User Posts: 434 Member
    edited May 2015
    @akords You have excellent credentials and i am trying to figure out a reason why you did not at least get into your matches. Sometimes there is just no good reason, as college admissions for very selective schools are unpredictable. But i have 3 possibilities: 1) did you take and submit your highesr ACT score? Although they won't admit it, i believe the elite schools prefer to see your highest ACT and SAT, so they can compare apples with apples so-to-speak. Also, more students take the ACT than SAT today. 2) You said you read your letters of reccommendation. Did you waive the Ferpa? If not, the colleges you applied likely did not give much weight, if any, to your teacher reccommenations, because they know the teachers cannot be fully candid if the student will be reviewing the letters of recommendation. 3) did you fill out the FAFSA and CSS and if so, was your family's efc such that you would require need based aid at your reaches and matches? Some of your reaches and match schools are not need-based blind and so that could also be a consideration in why. But your safety schools (and honors acceptances) are difficult to get accepted to for most applicants---you should be proud you got into them---that is not an easy feat!
  • DarkEclipseDarkEclipse Registered User Posts: 712 Member
    @trackmbe3 This was posted a year ago.
  • trackmbe3trackmbe3 Registered User Posts: 434 Member
    edited May 2015
    Yes i realized this after posting. Thanks for pointing that out. Akords has moved on. Hopefully my comments can still be of use to current rising seniors. I believe its important to waive ferpa (so schools know the recommendation letters are confidential and candid), take the ACT in addition to or instead of the SAT, and realize when applying that for some applicants and for some high reach elite schools, the schools are not need-blind and will give preference to the full pay applicants (ie,, those with high efc).
This discussion has been closed.