Stephanie - Stanford University - Class of 2015

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Colleges don't just look at grades and scores. They really want to get to know their applicants.

A year ago, I would have accepted Columbia on the spot. Columbia sent me lots of mailings that showcased its traditions, unique humanities curriculum, strong science departments, and thriving community. The mailings strongly influenced my opinions of the school. Also, New York City seemed like it would be such a cool city to live in. It is the center of everything that is happening in the world!

Hometown: San Diego CA

High School: Public

GPA: 4.0/4.89 (weighted)

SAT: 2150

ACT: 32

Major: Undecided

Goal: Become a doctor



Stanford UniversityAttending
Columbia UniversityAccepted
Harvard CollegeWaitlisted
University of California, BerkeleyAccepted
University of California, Los AngelesAccepted
University of California, Santa BarbaraAccepted
Yale UniversityDenied

East Coast or bust

My parents had limited funds to pay for application fees, so I didn't apply to a lot of schools, unlike many of my friends. I applied to three East Coast schools because I really wanted to go east, having lived in the west all of my life. I added Stanford because my sister goes there and I knew the campus. I chose three University of California campuses so I would have options if I decided to stay west after all.

As my decisions arrived, my choices narrowed down to Berkeley, Stanford, or Columbia. I quickly eliminated Berkeley, as I wanted the experience of a private school with smaller classes and a more intimate student community. I have to confess that I applied to Yale and Harvard just to see if I could get in. I was actually relieved not to have to choose between one of those schools and Columbia.

A major change of heart

All this time, I did not visit Columbia or any eastern college due to the cost. When I got into Columbia, I wanted to make sure that I was making the right decision before I accepted, so I asked my parents to pay for a visit. As part of my research prior to visiting, I read student reviews of each school. Reviews of Columbia made it clear that many students spend more time in the city than on campus, and that other students wished there was more school spirit.

The reviews of Stanford portrayed more of what I wanted: a traditional college experience with a winning football team to cheer for and school pride that brings all of the students together. As a bonus, it was situated in the middle of the technology center of the world. I could see myself having a tech-oriented career if I decided not to be a doctor. So I did not visit Columbia. I chose Stanford instead. I can always go east for graduate school, I tell myself.

My ups and downs

It was hard for me to turn down Columbia, after I had wanted to go there so much for so long. However, about a week after I accepted my admission to Stanford I came across a quote that said something to the effect of "Don't pick a college based on where you think you'll regret going, but on where you think you'll regret not going." I realized that if I would have gone to Columbia, I would have regretted not going to Stanford. And I was not regretting my Columbia decision at all. At that moment, I knew that I had made the best decision of my life.

What I learned

I was surprised that colleges were not just looking at numbers, like grades, test scores, and community service hours. Colleges really want to get to know their applicants by asking them to write about their passions and answer questions about favorite books, movies, and TV shows.

If I had it to do over, I would not apply to Yale or Harvard because I never really wanted to go to either one. I just applied because they were Ivy League schools. I would have saved money and had more time to fill out applications.

The money factor

My tuition fees are significantly reduced due to financial aid, but I plan on paying for the remainder by getting a job on campus (hopefully as a tour guide), taking out student loans, and accepting whatever my parents can afford to contribute.

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