Katherine - University of Washington - Class of 2019

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I thought I was a student who needed the care and attention of a small college, but I discovered I could also be successful at a big university.

I had to decide between two very different schools: a large public university in my home state and a small liberal arts college (smaller than my high school!) on the other side of the country. One had my ideal STEM program and the other had the supportive community and personal attention I longed for. How was I going to choose?

Hometown: Mukilteo, WA

High School: Public

GPA: 3.95/4.59 (weighted)

SAT: 2280

Major: Computer science

Goal: Study human-computer interaction, double major in psychology.

College

Status

University of WashingtonAttending
Bowdoin CollegeAccepted
Brown UniversityDenied
Colby CollegeAccepted
Dartmouth CollegeDenied
University of RochesterAccepted
Freshman Year Update

It was easy meeting people at first, but much harder finding people I really connected with. So I checked out a lot of campus organizations. There are clubs for everything here, but you have to be proactive. I attended events hosted by my department, and I joined a Christian Fellowship and the Society of Women Engineers. UW is definitely huge, but belonging to these communities makes it feel smaller.

My STEM/CS classes are challenging, but I like them. In high school, I never needed help from my teachers. Now I seek help whenever I can. I realized that it's okay to ask for help and that it doesn't mean I'm struggling. The professors and TAs are there for a reason.

Living in a dorm and on my own is super exciting, but I have more responsibilities now. Surprisingly, I really enjoy doing my laundry here. I also love making random 3 a.m. food runs with my friends (although I've gained 15 pounds). Do I ever think about Bowdoin? Nope! Now that I'm at UW, I am incredibly happy where I am.

Bowdoin is where I belong

At the beginning of my senior year, Bowdoin College was my first choice by far. I had fallen in love with its location in the Northeast, and its small community where I was sure I would thrive as a person and feel like I belonged. It also had a nationally-ranked RoboCups team—which as a computer science major was pretty interesting—and was rated #1 for college food.

But I couldn't ignore University of Washington, just 30 miles from home. It had one of the top computer science programs in the nation with amazing professors, research opportunities, and the possibility of internships and jobs with companies like Google and Facebook. But the program was very difficult to get into, and UW was huge—the opposite of the "personal" experience I wanted.

Plagued by "What Ifs"

I was thrilled with my acceptance to Bowdoin! It was a curveball. I didn't think I'd get in. But an even bigger surprise was that I got into UW's computer science department as a direct admit—with a generous aid package! I had visited UW many times because my two siblings went there. But when I toured the school as an accepted student, it felt different. I appreciated the beautiful campus and the diverse student body, and I learned that UW awards computer science degrees to women at twice the national average.

All along I had thought I wanted Bowdoin, but now I was leaning toward UW. Yet, I was afraid that if I chose UW, I would be unhappy, always wondering, "What if I had gone to Bowdoin?" I was choosing UW for its STEM program, but what if I ended up hating computer science?

All signs point to U-Dub

So, I decided to visit Bowdoin. And of course, it was everything I envisioned. The campus was lovely, isolated, and small. The food was incredible. The people were friendly and welcoming, and everyone knew each other. I ate dinner with some amazing faculty members who knew their students by name and truly cared about them. I attended a student-run fashion show that the entire school showed up for to support. By the end of the weekend, I felt like a Bowdoin Polar Bear.

But when I got home, I turned down Bowdoin's offer. And it wasn't because I couldn't see myself going there—I could, and I had. Having such a wonderful time at Bowdoin helped me see exactly what I'd be missing out on, and so I was able to let go of my anxiety about what might have been.

Now I could clearly see that getting into a top computer science department and having all my expenses covered pointed me to one school: UW. And I was overjoyed! I chose UW, and I haven't regretted my decision since.

My ups and downs

I was grateful to have options, but making my choice was very difficult. Colby and Bowdoin did a really good job of making me feel wanted. They both flew me out—all expenses paid—to visit their campuses. Their acceptance letters were filled with cute brochures and banners. I even got a handwritten card from someone at Colby noting something they liked in my application. It made it really difficult to turn them down.

What I learned

I was surprised by how much I changed over the course of a couple months. When I started applying to colleges, I was completely adamant about leaving Washington State and attending a small liberal arts college. But when it was time to commit to a school, I no longer felt that way.

Ironically, it was something Bowdoin's president said that made me feel better about attending UW. He said, "If you're the type of student who is willing to go out and seek your own opportunities, then you can succeed at a big school." I thought I was a student who needed the care and attention of a small college. But at that moment I realized I could be successful at UW as long as I made myself known and sought my own opportunities.

The money factor

Fortunately, I received grants and scholarships from UW covering my full tuition and expenses. But no one really told me how expensive it was to apply to colleges! Application fees can cost anywhere from $25 to $90. Then there are SAT scores and CSS profiles to send to every school. I think I spent a couple hundred dollars in total, and I only applied to six schools.

My advice

You might think you are "too good" for a less-selective school, but look beyond the acceptance rates and rankings. Those things are so insignificant in the end. Most of all, try not to worry. You'll find the place you were meant to be.

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