Linda - Grinnell College - Class of 2014

student photo

I know that colleges need to do it and it's not supposed to be torture—but getting put on four waitlists definitely feels like torture.

To be honest, I found college applications liberating. I could apply to schools all across the country. I could write essays about anything I wanted. Where I ended up would be the direct result of my own actions.

Hometown: Torrance CA

High School: Public

GPA: 3.8 / 4.4 (weighted)

SAT: 2260

ACT: 34

Major: Anthropology

Goal: Meet quirky, brilliant people; speak fluent French



Grinnell CollegeAttending
Bowdoin College Waitlisted
Brandeis UniversityAccepted
Carleton CollegeWaitlisted
Dartmouth CollegeDenied
Lawrence University (EA)Accepted
Lewis & Clark College (EA)Accepted
Oberlin CollegeWaitlisted
Stanford UniversityDenied
University of California, BerkeleyAccepted
University of California, Los AngelesAccepted
Wesleyan UniversityWaitlisted
Freshman Year Update

I love being here. It's amazing to live and work with 1,600 like-minded souls. Of course, at a small school there are fewer majors, course offerings, and social opportunities. However, the lack of required classes, a warm and quirky student body, and friendly understanding professors more than make up for those problems.

My downs include losing touch with my best friend from home and sometimes feeling completely overwhelmed by school. Ups include rediscovering my passion for French, meeting my roommate, making good friends from all over the U.S. and the world, and—dare I say—falling in love. In the future, I want to get more involved with campus clubs and activities such as yoga, swing dance, politics, maybe even the swim team.

Carleton cookies or bust

Even though I researched over 40 schools, I knew that Carleton College was perfect for me. Carleton is in Minnesota, a state I've liked ever since I visited on a family vacation. And it is the setting of my favorite movie of all time, Fargo. Dumb reason, I know, but the list goes on. Carleton has a huge arboretum and two lakes. True nature is hard to come by in Southern California, and the idea of being able to walk on campus and be in a forest was utterly appealing. There is a house on campus donated by an alumnus who stipulated that it must always be stocked with supplies for baking cookies. To me, Carleton is a very special place.

I arrived home one day to find a big blue envelope propped against the door. It was from Brandeis, printed with a big "Congratulations!" But stuck behind the door was a small envelope from Carleton. I forced myself to open that letter, hands shaking, skimming for something to tell me all was not lost—but there it was: "I am sorry to tell you that we cannot offer you admission at this time. We would like to offer you a place on our Waiting List." That letter broke my heart. I opened my acceptance package from Brandeis, and didn't feel a thing. I saw the truly, wonderfully, amazingly generous financial aid offer, but I was numb. Carleton was THE school. It was the place I had seen myself ever since I had learned it existed.

Then came waitlist purgatory

After that, I got waitlisted at Wesleyan, Bowdoin, and Oberlin. The first two I was sad about—but I had never expected to get accepted. But Oberlin? Not only did I think I was academically well qualified, but an admissions counselor e-mailed me how impressed she was with my essay. Even their anthropology department wrote me. So the Oberlin waitlist completely blindsided me.

It came down to Grinnell, UCLA, and Brandeis. I visited UCLA and it was way too big and impersonal. Although Brandeis is a smaller university, I felt the same way about it. I missed that strong homey vibe I was looking for. And Grinnell had it. Everyone that I met in that tiny little school in the middle of Iowa was so nice, smart, quirky, funny, and interesting that after about three hours on campus I was sold. And besides—Grinnell has no required classes! Every class I take will be chosen by me for one reason and one reason only: it sounds interesting! I am beyond excited to experience that.

My ups and downs

I know that colleges need to do it and it's not supposed to be torture—but getting put on four waitlists definitely feels like torture. At first I couldn't even appreciate how lucky I was to get into some very fine colleges. "I can't believe I'm not going to Carleton," was all I could think. My dad bought me socks from the Carleton bookstore, and I had to hide them so I wouldn't be taunted with that blue and gold logo every time I got dressed.

Being accepted to UCLA was an amazing feeling. This pioneer, this national presence, this titan of both sports and academia, they wanted ME! But ultimately I had to admit that it was too big and impersonal for me to ever feel at home. After my visit to Grinnell I knew I'd been right all along, that a small liberal arts college was the best fit for me.

What I learned

At first I really had no idea that liberal arts colleges even existed, but as I began to look for colleges I couldn't help thinking, "Oh my gosh, this is exactly what I want." Small class sizes, wacky traditions, and yes, a tendency to attract nerdy, liberal, indie rock enthusiasts such as myself—that is what liberal arts college means to me, and that is exactly what I am looking forward to for the next four years.

A lot is said about that "moment" when you step onto the campus that is right for you. I expected fireworks or alarm bells going off. Instead, I simply felt at home walking around Grinnell. Looking at the students, talking to them, eating in the dining hall—every single second of it felt right. Fit doesn't have to feel magical. But it's true what they say: when you feel it, you know.

The money factor

I picked up a lot of financial aid from Grinnell, both merit-based and need-based, and I'm hoping to win a few small local scholarships as well. All told, Grinnell is costing my family less than a state school!

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