Looking back on a two year application journey

This is a hindsight thread and is in reference to my daughter, who took a gap year and will be heading off to college in the fall.

First I’ll tell you about her. She’s an average student- straight As and a fair amount of DE courses, but low test scores and a homeschool diploma (though without any mom grades). Lots of volunteering, high hours dance all of high school while holding multiple jobs. She doesn’t love school and hated sitting still for the SAT. She described it as torture. She got bumped up a grade (a mistake in hindsight) not long before we started homeschooling in middle school, so she was very young (graduated at 16 and has a late fall bday). She’s also a future dance major, but had only been dancing three years when she applied last year, and she does not have a typical dancers body. All in all, not the strongest applicant out there. We tried to be realistic.

She applied to a LOT of schools last year. It can be so iffy to know where (if anywhere- she’s obviously not headed for the NYC ballet or anything) she would be artistically accepted, so she really loaded up on the auditions. I think she auditioned for maybe 20 schools. Unsurprisingly she did get a fair bit of rejection, both artistic and academic. She also got some acceptances, some of which seemed surprising as well. She ended up with enough choices that it felt like too many.

She shook off the rejections and chose from the schools that accepted her- we hadn’t gotten to visit most before Covid shut everything down, so she picked the best that she’d seen in person (fit is really important to her), with the best FA (full tuition scholarship), and took a gap year to continue her dance training and grow up a bit more before leaving home.

She decided not too long into her gap year that even though her chosen school was lovely, she felt like she was settling (it wasn’t in her top 3 or even top 5 initially), and ultimately forfeited the deposit to tell them she’d decided not to attend. She decided to try again, but only applying to her number one school, which had rejected her last year. Her plan was that if she didn’t get in she would continue as a trainee at her dance company and get a healthcare field tech degree from the local community college at night.

She applied to that school that had rejected her, with the same record from high school, and few new additions to her application- a single post-high school college course, a new essay, and a new interview with the department chair- she even reused her audition materials from the previous year. She was low stat for the school, by a fair margin, in terms of test scores, but wasn’t sure if Covid would make a difference- they’re test optional this year, but already have her scores from last year (and they aren’t test optional for transfers).

She emailed them a couple of times after applying and they told her they didn’t even know if they would consider her application at all- she wasn’t a freshman applicant anymore thanks to that one class, but they require thirty credits from transfer applicants. For over seven months she didn’t get any answers from the school. She’d assumed (as we were told again and again) that if they didn’t want her the first time, she had no shot the second time either. She went ahead and registered for fall at the community college.

Then, out of nowhere she got an email with an application update. She fully expected a second rejection and was completely shocked when it was an acceptance letter. For some people (my older daughter’s bestie) this school was/is a safety school, but for my daughter it was/is her dream school.

Had she listened to the conventional wisdom not to reapply to somewhere that rejected her, she wouldn’t be on her way to California in August. They even gave her more FA than we had any expectation of her getting. I’m sure most people who reapply to schools may not get in… but all she would’ve wasted was a couple of hours and the application fee. To her, it was worth it to take that shot.