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Stephanie - University of Illinois - Class of 2010

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I was drawn to big campuses with lots of sports, school spirit, and big recreation centers. Less appealing were colleges smaller than my high school in small towns with not much to do.

My first idea of a great college was one that sounded the nicest to other people. For example, "Oh, where are you going to college?" "Yale." "Ooh! Impressive!"

Hometown: Wilmette IL

High School: Public

GPA: 4.67 (weighted)

ACT: 29

Major: Economics

Goal: MBA in finance

College

Status

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Attending
Indiana University BloomingtonAccepted
Miami University: Oxford CampusAccepted
Northwestern UniversityDenied
University of Colorado at Boulder Accepted
Vanderbilt University Denied
Freshman Year Update

At first it was really hard for me to coordinate between soccer, school, and sorority stuff. But I still found a little time to myself. I am really glad that I am doing as much as I can because it makes the experience that much more enjoyable.

But as I visited campuses, I found out that I liked some schools much more than others. I realized that what appealed to me had less to do with college reputation and more to do with my own personality.

Discovering what I liked

I was drawn to big campuses with lots of sports, school spirit, and big recreation centers. Less appealing were colleges smaller than my high school, surrounded by small towns with not much to do. Location became important too. I felt much more comfortable in Midwestern schools. Paying attention to these qualities helped me evaluate schools. For example, Vassar, a top school my dad pushed for, felt small and cold to me.

So I applied mostly to large Midwestern schools with strong sports programs. Of course, I was also interested in academic strength in business, including the potential for good connections in the Midwest after graduate school. Interestingly, my identical twin was more interested in Eastern schools and liked smaller campuses. She is going to Denison University in Ohio.

Good choices, even with denials

My final choice was very simple. I was denied by my top choices, Northwestern and Vanderbilt, so University of Illinois was the best of the schools that I got into. Fortunately, all my colleges were places that suited me, so I really had no bad choices. Illinois is a big rah-rah school where I can attend football and basketball games and be very involved in a lot of activities. Also, it is close enough to home to offer me connections when I enter the business world. The other schools were overpopulated with kids from my high school, and I wanted high school to not follow me to college.

My ups and downs

Early in my senior year my high school counselor gave us this huge packet of college application materials. It was so big it scared me! Since I am a really orderly person, I reacted by getting all my applications done by October. So while everyone else was scrambling, I did not have to worry about it at all.

Getting rejected from two schools I had my heart set on was extremely challenging, especially when I thought I had a chance. Plus, people with lower grades and SAT scores than mine got into those schools that denied me.

What I learned

In trying to get my applications done early, I rushed through them. I should have asked someone to look over applications and essays, someone who would be as strict as a college admission officer. You have to be so careful. When I looked over my essay after it was sent, I found punctuation errors. It was easy for me to miss requirements, such as using black (not blue) ink, or writing supplemental essays.

I wished I had taken at least one test prep class. The first time I took the ACT, I did not care what I got. I practiced with a prep book, and took the test again, but my score only went up a little bit.

The money factor

My sister and I are fortunate our parents can support us through our college years.

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