Jessica - SUNY Geneseo - Class of 2017

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Because I didn't take finances into consideration from the beginning, I had to make my college decision at the last minute.

I've had "senioritis" since eighth grade, so I started my college search early. I knew I wanted a small, liberal arts college with a tight-knit "quirky" community. The problem? I'd have to take out loans to cover the cost. But everyone seemed to have loans, so why shouldn't I? Even my parents thought it was better to be in debt and happy at a school I loved than to be unhappy at a less-expensive college. We didn't realize how blissfully ignorant we were.

Hometown: Holbrook NY

High School: Public

GPA: 3.4 / 3.7 (weighted)

SAT: 1760

ACT: 28

Major: English and philosophy

Goal: Study abroad, get teaching certification

College

Status

SUNY Geneseo Attending
Bard CollegeDenied
Clark University (EA)Accepted
Fordham Univ. (EA)Accepted
Hampshire College (EA)Accepted
Mount Holyoke CollegeAccepted
Pace University (EA)Accepted
Sarah Lawrence CollegeAccepted
Smith CollegeDenied
Binghamton Univ. (EA)Deferred/
Denied
SUNY New Paltz (EA)Accepted
Freshman Year Update

Geneseo has been great, and I quickly felt at home. The workload was overwhelming at first, but once I committed to a schedule, it wasn't so difficult. (You'd be surprised at how much you can get done during those 45-minute breaks between classes.)

I really like the amount of opportunities here, especially the clubs and organizations. I wasn't involved in journalism in high school, but I ended up at a meeting for Geneseo's student-run newspaper and now I'm the Assistant Opinions Editor! I met some of my close friends there, as well as in the feminist and LGBTQ+ groups, and the Philosophy Club.

The most exciting opportunity has been working with my professor on research into gender and mental health. With her guidance, I submitted an idea for a paper to a women's studies newsletter—and it was accepted! I will be presenting the research at an upcoming symposium! Geneseo wasn't my first choice, but at this point, I'm happy I chose it.

Sophomore Year Update

Between being an editor on the newspaper, president of the school's feminist group, working, and being in the honors program, I had some trouble with time management. I also developed a repetitive strain injury in my hand and had to resign from the newspaper. (I'm much better now.)

Otherwise, I switched my major to philosophy and it's been great. The classes are challenging and it relates well to my minor in women's and gender studies. I'm also learning a lot by running the feminist group. It's rewarding because I get to work with other campus organizations and educate the community. Earlier this year, we helped put on an event supporting transgender students.

This summer, I will be doing philosophy research at Harvard. And in the fall, I'll be studying abroad at Oxford!

Junior Year Update

My term at Oxford University was a wonderful experience. I was able to take tutorials in the philosophy of perception and meta-ethics, which opened me to new areas of philosophy. The only downside was readjusting to life when I returned to New York.

This semester, I took a class in historiography, which I enjoyed immensely, and continued to work on feminist and Title IX issues. I was also on the assistant editorial board for a philosophy journal, so I got to read philosophy papers from all over the world and help select submissions. Next year, I plan to apply to graduate school for philosophy.

A holistic strategy

I was most interested in Hampshire College for its academic paradigm of narrative evaluations over grades, Smith because of its large activist community, and Mount Holyoke because like Smith, it was a prestigious women's college. But these schools were clear reaches for me. Fortunately, they practiced holistic admissions, which meant they weighted extracurriculars and essays heavily. I had spent a lot of time in the hospital in high school and my grades suffered as a result. I hoped to be able to tell this story—and show my resilience and ambition—in my essays.

I was elated with my acceptances to Hampshire and Mount Holyoke. I loved that Hampshire didn't give letter grades, but I became concerned about how that would look to grad schools, and how well I'd do with free reign to design my own course of study. So I went for an overnight visit to Mount Holyoke, and I quickly fell for its kind and welcoming community. I got home and sent my deposit in. End of story, right?

Debt shock

In April, I noticed that many of my peers were choosing state schools over private colleges because of the cost. Hesitantly, I calculated my loan repayments—and I was terrified! I would be in six-figure debt after four years at Mount Holyoke, even with the merit aid they offered! I kept telling myself it was an investment, the network is incredible, it's prestigious. I asked the college for more aid. Since my mother had been laid off, they came through with a little more, but it still wasn't enough.

I consulted practically everyone I knew for advice: my parents, my guidance counselor, my teachers, my friends. Ultimately, I decided that as a humanities major hoping to go to grad school, I couldn't afford to be in this much debt when I graduate, no matter how much I loved Mount Holyoke.

Now I had to reconsider the public schools that had accepted me. With just one week before the May 1 decision deadline, I visited SUNY Geneseo. I had heard it was the most selective of the SUNYs but was in the middle of nowhere. I was bitter when I got there. But as I explored the campus, it started to grow on me. It really was beautiful, and the main street had plenty of cute shops. Everyone I met was friendly and interested in their studies; some were even a little quirky (a plus for me)! At the information session, I learned that Geneseo is one of the few schools of its kind—a fine liberal arts college that is also a state school—and it offered many of the same opportunities as Mount Holyoke. I decided I would attend Geneseo. I only wish I had visited sooner.

My ups and downs

Completing applications made me anxious. I kept thinking, "What if they think I sound incompetent? What if they think I'm pretentious? Should I use 'who' or 'whom' here?" I envisioned the admissions committee as a frightening Donald Trump-esque group looking for me to fail. I had to remind myself that colleges want to find the perfect fit for their school. They aren't searching for mistakes.

I was elated by my acceptance to Mount Holyoke, then crushed when I saw it was financially implausible. The worst part was that, because I didn't take finances into consideration from the beginning, I was forced to make one of my first major life decisions at the last minute. My best moment was when I visited SUNY Geneseo and realized it was top-notch and I could absolutely see myself there.

What I learned

Many of the schools on my list were name brands, and I was excited by their prestige. But after visiting SUNY Geneseo, I realized that the school you choose—whether a dream school or a safety—won't make your college experience. You will create the experience at whatever school you attend.

The money factor

My grandmother is funding my first year. After that, I will take out loans offered by my school and apply for as many scholarships as possible. I will also work full-time during the summers and hopefully part-time during school.

My advice

Don't apply anywhere you could not actually see yourself. I applied to a lot of schools I didn't really want to attend because I thought I would receive merit aid, because they had a waived fee, or "just in case" I changed my mind about what I wanted in a college. In hindsight, it was frivolous and a waste of money. Most of all, carefully consider your future plans and the debt you will be incurring before you become set on schools beyond your financial reach.

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