Re-applying during gap year - I'm such a mess - so many questions - PLEASE help

<p>OK, so I graduated from high school last June, and I would like to re-apply to college this year (yes, I know, it's already December, and I should have gotten a much earlier start on this). But anyway, I have a TON of questions that I can't really seem to find exact answers to, and I'd appreciate any help with any of them.</p>

<p>I'll start with some background on me as a prospective college applicant, to give you an idea of where I'm at here. SAT: 2340 (770 math, 770 reading, 800 writing). SAT II: 800 Spanish (reading only), 770 US History, 770 Math level 2 (although this one I had to take twice - I got a 710 the first time). 5's on AP Spanish and AP US History, 4's on BC Calc and Physics (part B I think)(my school wouldn't let me take more than a few AP's). That all seems reasonably competitive to me (I probably should have gotten 5's on those other two AP's, but I figure that's not the end of the world). It's the grades where things get a little weird. I got very good grades in freshman, sophomore, and junior years (my school doesn't calculate GPA, because apparently that's unsuitable for a Quaker school, but I got A's and A-'s at a highly competitive school). My senior year grades are very bad. It all went pretty much as usual until December. I had applied to Yale early, and stupidly listened to all the people who told me I'd get in (I didn't), so I had really high expectations, and took the disappointment WAY too hard. So my first semester grades dipped. B+'s in AP Physics and Calc, and by far the most blaring of all, a C+ in English. Needless to say, that did not help my chances of getting in anywhere else I applied regular decision, and I ended basically only getting into my safety schools (I got into 2 out of the 8 schools I applied to). Further disappointment, plus senioritis, plus, to be fair to me, whooping cough, led to some of the worst grades I've ever seen or heard of, even for a second semester senior. I ended up sending in a deposit to one of the two schools I did end up getting into (Macalester), but I am not currently there - I decided to take a gap year, largely because I was in such a bad place psychologically after the whole process. So that's what my transcript reflects now: three years of very good grades, one semester of pretty decent grades with a C+ that sticks out like a sore thumb, and one semester of the worst grades imaginable. In terms of other aspects of my application, I'm guessing that one recommendation (US History teacher) is pretty OK and the other (Arabic teacher) is really fantastic. I have some traditional high school EC's (president of the geography club, varsity basketball and cross country, lead alto sax in the jazz band, etc.). But I think probably more notable for this section is what I'm doing with my gap year. First semester I did a program in Central America with an organization called Where There Be Dragons (among other mountains of things I gained from that experience, my Spanish is basically fluent now), and second semester I am going to live in Nairobi, Kenya, volunteering for an AMAZING organization called Shining Hope for Communities. In terms of my essay, I feel like I kind of have to address my experience over the last year (in terms of the college process, senior year, and my gap year - please tell me if this is a terrible, red flag idea). I don't intend to write a super-predictable essay that says "I was so immature then, but now my gap year has made me so much better, so you should totally just forgive/ignore my senior year grades." It'll be better. I can actually be quite a good writer (strange, gigantic ramblings on college confidential forums notwithstanding).</p>

<p>With that out of the way, I have some specific questions. And know that I have done some research. I don't need to get the whole spiel about how a gap year is not a way to significantly increase your chances of admission to selective schools, or about how it is highly unlikely that schools that previously said "no" will change their minds. I frankly think that applying this time will be far more of an uphill battle than last time. But it's something I feel like I have to do.</p>

<p>I am currently enrolled at Macalester for next year (I deferred admission for my gap year). But I really do not want to go there. What do I do about this? Is there anything I can do? Is it actually just impossible for me to reapply, given that I am holding a place at Macalester for next year? Can I just tell them I changed my mind? Will other schools not let me in if they know I put down a deposit somewhere else? I am perfectly OK with forfeiting the deposit money.</p>

<p>Not that this would be my first choice for something to do, but is it an insane idea to take a second year off and reapply then (meaning, would that significantly decrease chances of admission)?</p>

<p>I'm not expected to retake the SAT and SAT II's, am I?</p>

<p>Since I am not currently in high school, who writes the recommendation from the college counselor? My old counselor from high school?</p>

<p>I feel a need to use my essay to address my unusual application circumstances. But I really, really like my essay from last year, and would like for colleges to see it? Would they hold it against me if I sent them this as well? I feel like it does a much better job of actually giving them a sense of me as a person, rather than me in the specific context of my strange college decision?</p>

<p>I have been doing a lot of research on applying to Columbia University. All the sources I have seen have told me that the School of General Studies is intended for "non-traditional" students. By their criteria (those who have taken one or more years of a break in their education), I believe that I technically qualify as a non-traditional student, and could therefore apply to the School of General Studies, rather than Columbia College (the standard undergraduate program that high schoolers generally apply to). But do I have to? Am I allowed to apply normally to Columbia College? I have spent a really long time searching for the answer to this question but I can't find it. And if, indeed, I am allowed to apply to either, which would people recommend? Do they differ in terms of difficulty to get into? And, probably more importantly, on this note, do other schools generally have different application processes for students who have taken a break in their education? Am I missing something (I thought that the process was generally the same as just after high school)?</p>

<p>And lastly, does anyone have any other advice or things that I might need to hear? I just feel lost. And I hate it. And I don't know what to do.</p>

<p>Sorry for rambling, and sooooo much thanks to anyone who actually takes the time to read this and give me any answers at all.</p>

<p>What do you want to do in your life?</p>

<p>Do you have any goals besides chasing prestige and/or validation?</p>

<p>Why not Macalester?</p>

<p>Why is Columbia GS worse than Columbia College?</p>

<p>Not Macalester because there’s not really anything about the school that appeals to me. I just kind of applied there because someone suggested it and I didn’t think that much about it. I only enrolled because it was bascially my only choice (well, I had one other choice, but I didn’t want to go there either - not the point). I don’t want to go to a specific school just because I feel like I have to.</p>

<p>I didn’t mean to imply that I thought GS is worse than Columbia College. After all, they take the same classes. I see no reason why one would be better than the other, or even really that different from the other, except of course in terms of the applicant pool. I’m just confused as to how this process works for a student like me, and which one would be better for me to apply to. Am I really that “non-traditional?” I suppose I am, but I never really though of it that way. And I think my main concern with that question is that I’m worried that I could be missing something and that equivalent special circumstances exist with other schools I’m applying to, and that I’m screwing something up by applying the normal way.</p>

<p>So what appeals to you?</p>

<p>So far, you’ve given no indication that you have goals besides chasing prestige/validation.</p>

<p>In response to the other questions, I’m not really sure what my goals in life are. This probably sounds cheesy or cliché, but what I really would like is to have some kind of positive impact on the world. To make some kind of change. I don’t know how, but that’s kind of what I want to do. Also, I have the incredible luck to come from a financial situation where I don’t have to make all of my decisions based on money, if that’s at all useful information. Prestige is I guess something that I didn’t really realize mattered to me until last year. I didn’t really realize until my rejection how much of a deeply insecure person I am. It’s given me serious feelings of inferiority to be told I’m not good enough to attend a brand name school, even if I know on some level how little that actually matters. But knowing that doesn’t change the fact that I just emotionally haven’t been able to handle the rejection. I realize that that is a sign of serious immaturity and a lack of perspective, but that’s the way it is for me.</p>

<p>OK, so you have no goals, are insecure, and you can’t say what appeals to you besides prestige. BTW, you do realize that that is pretty much the opposite of what top schools look for, right?</p>

<p>Harvard Extension sounds like an option.</p>

<p>From the sounds of it your gap year was like an extended summer vacation. Typically when I think of non-tradation I would say someone who has been working full-time to support themselves or a women who was pregnant and had to take care of her baby. Preferably someone above the age of a typical college student too 22-24+. For this reason I don’t think most schools would seriously consider you a non-trad.</p>

<p>"(n terms of the college process, senior year, and my gap year - please tell me if this is a terrible, red flag idea"
College process should not be mentioned.
Gap year and senior grades should be mentioned in additional comments section.
FYI for the senior grades you will want a good excuse.</p>

<p>Lastly if your essay from last year didn’t get you into 6 of 8 universities then it was most likely not what the admissions people wanted to hear. Ask your friends for their essays and use that info to reevaluate your essay. You’ll want a good new essay to apply with this year. </p>

<p>FYI making a different in central america is good but making a difference in your own community is even better. Something to keep in mind.</p>

<p>Worst case just goto community college and transfer. </p>

<p>You definitely DO NOT want to mention you were rejected from all those colleges. It would sound like whining, and it’d be appalling to the adcoms reading your application.</p>

<p>But regardless of whether you sound like a non-trad or not, you may apply to Columbia GS and it is easier to get in than Columbia College.</p>

<p>My guess is that your results senior year will put you at a significant disadvantage as compared to other applicants. Perhaps you should make a short list of the schools you want to attend. Research each as to your chances of transfering in sophomore year. Then go to Macalester and get straight A’s your freshman year.</p>

<p>I have always preferred to approach a problem from a position of strength rather than a position of weakness. As it stands now, any admissions committee will view you as a risk, no matter how you try to explain it. By going to Macalaster as originally planned, you will either 1) find out that you really do like it; or 2) develop some firm evidence for your next application that your senior year truly was an abberation. It seems to me that this approach has the further benefit of not having to deal with additional rejection this year, if things don’t work out the way you hope.</p>

<p>You can climb your way out of this, but not by taking shortcuts. Be patient, show what you can do, and then try again.</p>

<p>I would put the application in to Columbia. Your stats are good. You need to get moving as I believe the deadline is in 3 weeks no? Have someone take a look at your essays and help you put together a polished statement on what you did with your gap year. </p>

<p>Do not focus on the negative and tell a big long story. There is a place on every application to explain fluctuations in grades - think you can just state it was a “stressful time” - would not mention the rejection letters. </p>

Its been 7 years, what happened after?