April 22, 2020
There's no question that the college process is intimidating, drawn out, and at times downright stressful. For me, this was especially true. As the son of two parents who went to college outside of the United States, I had little grasp of what to expect from the college process in my first three years of high school. Accordingly, when it came time to visit schools during spring break of my junior year, I was at a loss. I didn't know if I wanted a school that was big or small, urban or secluded, sports-oriented or more liberal-artsy. The only criteria I knew I had was that my college had to be East of the Mississippi River, because my mom wouldn't let me stray too far from home.
I decided to tour seven schools in New England that spring break, though I wound up applying to just four of them. In fact, my final college list could be described as lopsided and illogical. I came to realize I had applied to way too many schools (18), the vast majority of which were very selective. This left me without a single "safety" school that I felt content attending. Looking back, I strongly recommend applying to at least one school where you're very confident you'll be accepted and you'd genuinely enjoy attending. Moreover, try limiting your college list to ten or twelve schools, or else be prepared for a mountain of supplemental essays all due on or around January 1.
In any case, I largely ignored that advice, and chose to apply Early Decision to Brown University. After a month or two of nervous anticipation, my decision was released on a fateful night in mid-December. Surrounded by my parents, with my eyes glued to my computer screen, I clicked "View Status Update" on my application portal.
Still, they say when God closes a door he opens a window. So now, with this window of opportunity ajar, I had to narrow down my regular decision college list so I'd have time to apply to all my schools by the January 1 deadline. I knew I wanted to study political science, which is available at most schools, although some were more known for it than others. If you know what you want to study, I recommend you search which schools on your list are best for your particular major. On top of that, I decided I wanted a small- or medium-sized school in an urban area, so I crossed off schools on my list which didn't meet those criteria. I've now come to realize that location and school size were two of the most significant considerations for me.
All that was left for me to do was to write my supplemental essays. I churned out dozens in the few weeks I had, something I do not recommend. (Supplemental essay quantity and quality tend to have an inverse relationship). By the time I finished, I was so exhausted from writing about myself that I began losing faith in this seemingly byzantine college process we all follow.
Notwithstanding my jaded disposition, all I had left to do was wait for my remaining 15 or so decisions. In late March, the decisions came pouring in, and I was thrilled to be accepted to multiple schools I would enjoy attending.
After all the hysteria surrounding the application itself, deciding where to go is an oft-overlooked part of the college process. At this point, I was still conflicted on whether I wanted a more traditional college experience, or one that revolved more around the city where the school is located. Due to this last minute soul-searching, I ultimately narrowed down my list to two contenders: Georgetown — a school 20 minutes from home, and Northwestern — a school I'd never visited and applied to on a whim.
Following a few weeks of pensive thought, I ultimately chose Georgetown. The school made the most sense for studying government because of its location, and I felt I "vibed" more with the social life there than at Northwestern, which seemed more frat-oriented. In the end, I believe you should attend the college where you truly envision yourself being happy; not the college your parents or friends want, nor the school you believe is the most "prestigious."
I wish you all the best of luck in your college process!
About the writer: Uri is a high school senior who will be attending Georgetown University in the fall.
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