Hometown: Oakland, CA
High School: Public
GPA: 3.9/4.3 (weighted)
Major: Mechanical and biomedical engineering
Goal: Attend medical school and become an orthopedist
Although my test scores weren't the highest, I had good grades and was a well-rounded student with sports, music, and volunteer work on my resume. So, I was confident and optimistic about my chances at all the colleges on my list. Then I heard back from a number of them—and my attitude changed.
I thought I needed to apply to a lot of schools because college admissions is so unpredictable—so I applied to 18 colleges. It was definitely a lot of work, but I was used to being busy. Besides school, a job, and AP classes, I was on two varsity sports teams and I played cello in a youth orchestra. Columbia University was my first choice because it fit all my requirements nicely, and I was attracted to the idea of living in New York. But I could also see myself at UCLA. It had an outstanding location between the beach and downtown Los Angeles, a large, busy campus, and a good engineering school.
I applied to Columbia for an early decision but was denied. As you'd expect, I was extremely upset because I felt like I was a strong candidate. I thought I had put my best foot forward with my application, but now I worried about things I could have done better. I immediately regretted applying early. I thought maybe if I had taken more time to prepare my application, I might have had a better chance.
More rejections followed: Stanford, all the Ivies, Johns Hopkins. UCLA's denial was the biggest disappointment, because I thought I had a pretty good chance of getting in. It all felt so unfair.
My choices came down to UC San Diego and Northeastern. At first I was going to choose UC San Diego. Its engineering and medical schools were really strong. And, being an in-state public university, it was also cheaper. But it didn't have the bustling, urban campus I wanted. Although it was beautiful and near the beach, it was more spread out and had a more suburban feeling to me.
Then I visited Northeastern and fell in love with it. The campus was exciting and right near downtown Boston. There were so many students walking around and hanging out on the quad, and they were so diverse. When I learned about the engineering program, I liked the school even more. Northeastern gives students a lot of flexibility to change majors and offers a wide range of electives. It even has a co-op program where students spend three to six months working full time in their major area of study. In the end, I felt Northeastern would be a better place for me to grow and develop.
Getting rejected from all of my top choices made me resentful, as did hearing about other students who got into those colleges. I couldn't understand why I had been denied, or which part of my application was weakest. But because I am so happy with Northeastern now, I have moved beyond my resentment. I still think admissions decisions are at least partially about luck. But I also realize that I was lucky to find Northeastern, and that the most important thing is to make the most of my time there.
I really procrastinated on my essays, but writing them also helped me learn a lot about myself. Writing forced me to reflect on the things I have done and discover more about who I am and what makes me unique. Although I experienced a lot of rejection, I'm proud of what I've accomplished in my life up to this point.
I am paying for college with the money that I earned from working throughout high school, and with an education fund that my parents generously set up for me.
Start your essays as soon as possible. If you apply early, just make sure you have enough time to prepare your materials and do the best job you can. Challenge yourself when applying to colleges, but appreciate where you end up. The most important thing is what you accomplish while you are there.