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Alexander - U. of Colorado Boulder - Class of 2014

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The admission process teaches you about yourself. I feel it has made me all the more prepared for college.

Law school is my ultimate goal and this heavily influenced my college decisions. So I looked for colleges with strong programs in philosophy. While this might seem weird, I believe that studying various perspectives of thought will be especially conducive to a prelaw education.

Hometown: Denver CO

High School: Public

GPA: 3.96 / 4.98 (weighted)

ACT: 32

Major: Philosophy

Goal: Enter law school academically and spiritually prepared



University of Colorado at BoulderAttending
Brown UniversityDenied
Cornell University Accepted
Dartmouth College Denied
Denison University Accepted
Willamette University Accepted
Freshman Year Update

The grading system in college assumes much personal responsibility. And that has led to some great moments (where I've achieved through my own work) and some major lessons (where more studying would have come in handy). Some of the more emotional times have come from the social side of the whole experience, such as meeting and bonding with many new people, going out and doing new things, and also trying to deal with some letdowns without my parents around anymore. I enjoy the relaxed environment here, and the system really lets me make what I want of it. I've joined debate teams and play lots of intramural sports. More often than not, I feel that CU was the right choice for me.

Sophomore Year Update

At times, things can get exhausting, but at others I'm happy to be alive and doing so many things. I got more involved this semester with political campaigns, tutoring, and intramural sports, while taking 20 credit hours. That seems to be the point of college at CU Boulder: do everything you want, until you literally cannot fit in anything more. My major's great, and so is CU, but I am worried that the school has a reputation for "partying," which may influence where I can get accepted to law school. I'll start prepping for the LSAT soon, and hopefully all will go well.

Junior Year Update

This year has been great. I maintained a 4.0, was published in CU's honors journal, and am on track to graduate with honors. I've gotten to know some of my professors personally, which has helped me get the most out of my major. I also started working as an intern at a non-profit law firm that represents juvenile offenders and as a bartender at a restaurant. My internship has shown me how I can use my law degree to help those who have been marginalized in society. Thanks to the opportunities I found through CU's network, my resume is competitive enough for a top-tier law program, and I feel well prepared to apply to law school. I don't believe my situation would be any different had I chosen Cornell, except that I will graduate in 2014 debt-free!

Senior Year Update

My major "up" this year was getting accepted to some of my dream law schools (including Harvard and Stanford!), and feeling like all my hard work paid off. After graduating with honors, I will attend Stanford in the fall. I'm thinking about studying criminal defense and becoming a public defender.

Looking back, I don't think I sacrificed anything by attending an in-state public college. It's true that at a big school, you don't have people watching your every move. That means you can slip through the cracks, or you can grow immensely from your independence. I got a great education, paid in-state tuition, and stayed close to friends and family. Since I was in a small department (philosophy), I had plenty of individual advising and contact with professors. Seeing the campus these last few weeks makes me think back to my times here with nostalgia—but I'm glad I've had an experience worth missing.

My college list is just right

At first I simply picked colleges I was already familiar with: University of Colorado, Brown (a great friend of mine is going there), and Willamette (where many of my high school friends were applying). Willamette offers a fast-track application with a quick turnaround, and it was nice to know I had gotten into at least one college before January 1st. I learned about Denison University at a "Colleges That Change Lives" presentation. I decided to apply there as a wild card and visit later. I also looked at the rest of the Ivy League schools. My father encouraged me to go big on my applications, so I added Cornell and Dartmouth. They seemed more down-to-earth than the other Ivies that I visited.

Brown was my top choice. Its pass/fail option and the openness of course selection really spoke to me. I felt that the students were there to learn just as avidly as I would. But Brown turned me down.

The big-ticket Ivy or the affordable local college?

I faced an agonizing decision: choosing between Cornell and Colorado. When I visited Cornell, I was astounded by the quality of the Cornell faculty. And every kid I spoke to seemed really engaged on multiple levels. The general air of the campus had a mystical quality. I just felt I was in the right place. There was only one problem—one huge problem. Was the experience worth an extra $30,000 a year?

After a long talk with a philosophy professor at Colorado, I decided it was not. I saw elements within Colorado that excited me just as much as Cornell had. I found myself truly excited about the prospect of making it my home. While Cornell's benefits may have outweighed those at Colorado by a small margin, they paled in comparison with the difference in their cost. The decision became obvious when I matched the two dime-for-dime. With law school around the corner, I'd rather graduate with some money than $100,000 in debt.

My ups and downs

Let me tell you, the financial aid process is no joke. My parents were so reluctant to fill out forms that I had to sit alongside them as they went through the FAFSA. To make things worse, many colleges began sending me forms like the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE and Cornell's Freshman Financial Aid Application, many of which took longer to complete than the FAFSA. My parents had to be pushed and prodded, barely meeting deadlines.

I found myself wondering if it would have turned out differently if I had applied to Brown early decision. You never know what could happen. But as I write that sentence now, I realize how fortunate I am to have gotten through this process with relatively little disappointment.

What I learned

The admission process teaches you things about yourself. I remember one moment as I struggled to write an essay about playing the violin. The essay wasn't coming along like I felt it should, and then I realized why. I wasn't telling the truth. I was trying to write about my love for an instrument that had become more of a chore to me than anything else. So I started again and wrote about why I'm giving up the violin after senior year. It gave me a powerful feeling to put "me" into my college application. No matter where I got in, I would feel like I had really earned it.

Answering questions like, "What is it that really stimulates your drive to learn?" helped me get a glimpse of myself from an outside perspective, where I was in my life, and how I have developed as a person. In a weird way, I feel like the process has made me all the more prepared for college.

The money factor

My parents have agreed to contribute roughly 75 percent of my tuition and housing expenses, most of which comes from a college fund they started when I was born. The rest comes from assets that I have saved over the years. Thankfully, it seems like I will come out of CU without any debt.

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