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Damon - New York University - Class of 2011

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NYU's urban campus was very appealing to me. Because New York City is literally at its doorsteps, I felt I would be able to seize opportunities to work at internships and to meet interesting people.

I have a keen interest in journalism. I was the head editor for my high school newspaper and literary magazine. But I did not write about that in my college applications. I wrote about my father's two-year bout with terminal cancer. It was an experience that really defined me as a person and one that affected my academic performance.

Hometown: Chicago IL

High School: Public

GPA: 3.39 / 4.29 (weighted)

SAT: 1630

ACT: 30

Major: Journalism

Goal: Throw myself out there

College

Status

New York University (ED)Attending
Indiana University BloomingtonAccepted
University of Chicago (EA)Waitlisted
University of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignAccepted
University of MichiganWaitlisted

The lure of the big city campus

Because my dad died in August before my senior year, I did not begin my research until late that summer. Based on college planning books and websites, I became interested in bigger schools with good journalism programs. I quickly assembled a list of colleges and began my applications. Visiting, however, was the most important part of my process. In the fall I visited Northwestern and University of Chicago and then flew to NYU. Northwestern, which I liked on paper, turned out to feel too subdued out in the middle of suburbs. University of Chicago, which I assumed was all about studying, turned out to be a campus I loved. The other colleges on my application list were safeties with good journalism schools.

NYU's urban campus was very appealing to me. Because New York City is literally at its doorsteps, I felt I would be able to get out there and seize opportunities to work at internships and to meet interesting people. It also has incredible opportunities for film studies (something I'm also interested in). NYU became my top choice.

Why I applied early

I applied early to NYU and University of Chicago because I thought that certain parts of my application were strong but my GPA numbers were not that impressive. I figured applying early would offer me a better chance because there would be a smaller number of people in the application pool. Applying early would also show that I was interested in NYU. I could not bear the thought of waiting until April for acceptances, so that was an extra incentive.

My ups and downs

The whole process felt like an ordeal. There was paperwork all over the place. Sorting out recommendation forms for my teachers and required documents for the counseling office was intimidating. What if everything got lost? Would NYU get my new and vastly improved SAT score report? Even though most of the work is online these days, there is still so much to keep track of.

Writing good essays was very challenging, even though I love to write. You must strike a keen balance between staying true to oneself and selling yourself for all you are worth. I went through five complete re-writes of most of my essays—not to speak of the many shorter pieces that were just as challenging.

In late December I called NYU after two weeks of checking online with no news. "Oh, we send you a letter on December 2," they said. "We'll send it again." "Wait!," I immediately shot back, "Just tell me if I got in!" That's how I got my answer. I shoved all my college stuff to the side—I had been preparing five more applications—and got an instant case of senioritis. Fortunately, I got over it and had a great senior year.

What I learned

Choosing a college is a personal thing. Looking at books might give you an idea but don't base your lists on information. Seeing campuses and talking with people who know those campuses is much more helpful.

I think it is a good idea to start your essays over the summer. Get good readers, tear your writing apart, and then create something new.

Prepare for achievement tests by practicing. That's how I brought up my score. Take SAT Subject Tests because a lot of schools are asking for them.

Look outside your comfort zone. For instance, half my high school class is staying in-state. A lot of kids can make out-of-state schools work with financial aid.

The money factor

Thankfully, money didn't have to be a huge factor in my decision. I was in the convenient position of being able to select a school based upon my wants rather than by what a checkbook dictated.

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