Boris - Dartmouth College - Class of 2009

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I was sure that my high test scores and grades could get me into almost any top college. As it turned out, I had a lot to learn.

I did very well academically in high school. My extracurricular pursuit was classical piano, which left little time for much else. I was sure that my high test scores and grades could get me into almost any top college. As it turned out, I had a lot to learn. I found the uncertainty involved with college admission to be extremely challenging.

Hometown: Cape Elizabeth ME

High School: Public

GPA: 4.0 / 4.3 (weighted)

SAT: 1600*

Major: Undeclared

Goal: Law School

*Writing score not included

College

Status

Princeton UniversityDenied
Harvard CollegeWaitlisted
Dartmouth CollegeAttending
Amherst UniversityAccepted
Yale UniversityWaitlisted
Columbia UniversityDenied
University of ChicagoDenied
MITDenied
Washington University in St. LouisAccepted
Brown UniversityWaitlisted
Swarthmore UniversityWaitlisted
Brandeis UniversityAccepted
Freshman Year Update

It took some getting used to the intensive academic work. Fall term was tough, and I found myself wondering, "Why did I choose this? What have I done?" But now I think that Dartmouth is the perfect choice for me.

Flat out for the Ivy League

I chose highly selective schools based on college rankings, guides, and recommendations from family and friends. Otherwise, I did not know exactly what I was looking for. Data on the current students at each college helped me figure out, at least on paper, where I might fit in. My counselor suggested I apply to a lot of schools and cast a wide net. I narrowed my choices down to twelve and applied to all of them, many sight unseen. I thought that all academically renowned colleges were quite similar.

Smaller turns out to be better

I was very upset not to get into Princeton, my first choice. But as I visited my accepted schools, my disappointment went away. Though a city person at heart, I was drawn by the close contact with professors and peers to be found at a small college. One can live in New York City anytime, but I believe that a true college experience, complete with lasting bonds and friendships, comes only once. Amherst was the only school that tempted me besides Dartmouth. I felt the Dartmouth campus had more in the way of social and academic options. Other campuses were quickly eliminated. When I visited urban campuses, I discovered that the city got on my nerves. Also, the classes were huge. It felt lonely on campus. In one dorm I stayed at, no one knew the names of the other students on their floor.

My ups and downs

I put off my applications until two weeks before New Years. I should have done them much earlier, but I was avoiding the stress.

Writing essays was a painful experience for me. I felt forced to lay out my whole life on a single page. I kept bumping around with different approaches and finally wrote about my roots in Russia and what that has meant to me.

I did lots of practice tests to see what the SAT was like. I did not score nearly as well on the practice tests as I did when I actually took the test.

My best moment was getting a letter from Dartmouth that said they really wanted me to attend. They send these letters to only 25% of the accepted pool. My lowest moment was when I was caught off guard by a lot of rejections from my target schools.

What I learned

Discussion forums for current college students gave me insight into how students at specific colleges spent their free time and what sort of social options were available. Also, I learned a lot from older students who were attending colleges they were happy with.

Even more than visiting during the day, staying overnight at my accepted colleges was invaluable. That shows you what the social scene is really like. Many students choose colleges with limited or no visits, instead making their choices based on guidebooks and reputation, and then get a rude awakening once they arrive on campus in the fall.

I think I did the right thing by applying to many schools, because I was targeting highly selective schools. Admissions at these schools are quite unpredictable, providing no guarantees, regardless of qualifications. It's important to include a safety school so you get in somewhere.

The money factor

My parents are paying for college, and cost was not a big factor. I am very fortunate they supported my choice to turn down a merit scholarship to Brandeis University in order to attend the college I much preferred, Dartmouth.

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