Candace - U. of N. Carolina at Chapel Hill - Class of 2015

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Your college match is measured by more than your scores and major. It's when the heart and soul of the school fits you.

The whole year was a blur. With ten schools and about 30 scholarship applications, I was writing 500-word essays almost every day—many of which I couldn't reuse. My organizational skills were definitely tested.

Hometown: Creedmoor NC

High School: Homeschooled

GPA: 3.8

SAT: 2040

Major: English

Goal: Graduate school

College

Status

University of North Carolina at Chapel HillAttending
Clemson UniversityAccepted
College of William and MaryWaitlisted
Elon University (EA)Accepted
Furman UniversityAccepted
Mercer UniversityAccepted
Princeton UniversityDenied
University of AlabamaAccepted
Virginia Polytechnic InstituteAccepted
Washington and Lee UniversityDenied
Freshman Year Update

In high school, I never had to study the way I do in college! There is so much more material. Both semesters I've struggled and had to dig my way back out. I wasted a lot of time just talking and procrastinating. But freshman year taught me how to study. I learned that for every fun thing you do, you have to study three times as much, not the other way around. I found out that you're going to make mistakes, but you can learn from them. And you must use the resources at your school (academic, physical, personal, etc). They are there to help you!

Sophomore Year Update

This year, I studied better and set goals, which made a huge difference in my grades. I held leadership positions in my residence hall and in a video group, and I wrote for a student magazine. I also saw a lot of speakers on campus, from the NFL commissioner to the President and First Lady. Between hanging out with my friends, going to sporting events, making mistakes, finding success, and late-night conversations, I've grown tremendously. I plan to major in journalism and minor in creative writing and social and economic justice. Sometimes I think about the other colleges I applied to and how my major would have been laid out for me. But in the end, I can't imagine myself anywhere else.

Junior Year Update

I entered college wanting to work in broadcast journalism, but I realized the news business was too strict and confining. Now I am a media and production major, and I think I've found my niche in documentary work. Being active in several organizations and working part-time has taught me how to work with people and improved my confidence. But last semester, I had too much on my plate and received a disappointing grade in a science class. I came back much stronger in the spring!

I would choose UNC ten times over. It really fits who I am. I know I applied to a few schools where I wouldn't have felt comfortable. It's scary to think of how few options I would have had if I hadn't been accepted to UNC. My advice: If you aren't crazy about a school, don't apply.

Every college brochure makes me fall in love

I looked through every letter, brochure, viewbook, and e-mail that came my way. I fell in love with school after school, from Miami to Williamsburg, New York to Nashville, St. Louis to Des Moines. After my SAT scores arrived, however, I chose the schools that fit me academically, and had really strong English, journalism, or communications programs.

During the fall of senior year, I received encouraging letters from several schools I had not planned to apply to. Hints of potential financial aid offers seemed too good to pass up, so despite the extra work, I applied. In hindsight, this was probably the worst decision I made in the application process, since I essentially wasted a great deal of time on applications to schools I really had no interest in.

UNC has it all

By March, I was down to University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Princeton, and Clemson. They all were the right size and had majors I wanted. But of course, I did not yet know if any of them wanted me.

Although I had been to UNC for public events, I had never actually toured the campus. But as soon as I set foot on the main quad I was sold. For the first time, I had that feeling everyone had been telling me about—knowing that's where you belong. From the kindness of the admissions office, the atmosphere, and the school's stellar reputation, I felt like I had found everything I had been looking for.

After receiving rejections from Washington and Lee and Princeton, and a waitlist from William and Mary, I knew I was headed to Chapel Hill. I liked Clemson, but when I considered cost, reputation, academic programs, diversity, student organizations, campus, speakers, faculty, sports, and size—UNC had it all.

My ups and downs

Even though it seems like I went through half the colleges in the U.S. to realize this, I'm happy that I looked at all of my options and did the work. Even though it was disappointing to apply to many scholarships and not win any, I am also happy I did that. These experiences made me a better student, writer, and organizer. It was pre-college boot camp!

Staying organized was challenging, but I overcame the obstacle by keeping a large binder for the ten schools I applied to. The binder included sections on financial aid, application info, decision letters, a to-do list, and a calendar. Another binder housed all of my scholarship information, and on the computer I kept folders for each school and scholarship I applied to. I also made a spreadsheet with a list of things that were important to me in a college. This was really nice because I could compare things like costs, SAT scores, size, diversity, etc. It made it easier for me to see which schools really had what I was looking for.

What I learned

Your college match is measured by more than your scores and major. It's when the heart and soul of the school fits you. For example, excellence, service, and southern hospitality are key values at UNC. When you're there, you feel how everyone embraces that spirit and tries to exemplify those things, that "Tar Heel Spirit," in some way.

I was surprised that applications not only required me to provide facts, but also the essence of who I am and what makes me tick, all without sounding cheesy. You really have to spend time thinking about who you are, what you like, and why you want to go to college. It can be difficult to explain these things when there's only so much space to do so. And besides, you're still discovering who you are!

The money factor

Thankfully, my aid package covers 80 percent of my first-year costs, so I will only have one small loan. The rest will be covered by my parents and my own work-study.

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