Joseph - University of Vermont - Class of 2015

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College is one of the few chances to completely change your surroundings and go somewhere you choose.

No one at my high school had any aspirations to leave the state much less attend a prestigious private or public college. But there was no way I was staying in Ohio.

Hometown: Cincinnati OH

High School: Public

GPA: 4.0/4.09 (weighted)

ACT: 30

Major: Biology

Goal: Medical school



University of VermontAttending
Boston UniversityAccepted
Hampden-Sydney CollegeAccepted
Northeastern UniversityAccepted
University of MichiganAccepted
University of PennsylvaniaWaitlisted
University of VirginiaAccepted
Yale University (EA)Denied
Freshman Year Update

Over winter break I was sure I was going to transfer. I hadn't found my social niche, I was bored on the weekends, my dorm-mates constantly played pranks, and I had problems with a professor. But it's going a whole lot better now. I'm heavily involved with campus organizations. I'm also a producer and cohost of a TV show on pop culture. I took a beginner's tennis class which was a welcome change of pace from my intensive science classes. From all this, my social circle has greatly expanded. Now, everywhere I walk on campus I see someone I know and recognize.

Sophomore Year Update

After struggling in organic chemistry, I evaluated whether I wanted to continue with premed. I chose to stick with it and minor in religion. The highlight of the year has been my stint as residence hall association president. I'm now more connected to my university and have an inside perspective on how it runs. I even got to speak to 2,600 freshmen at opening weekend about building community. Through the RHA, my fraternity, and the TV station, I've made great friends and had a positive impact on campus. At the same time, this school is far from reaching the diverse, inclusive environment it strives for, and this can be frustrating. I'm happy the school is moving in the right direction and I can be part of change.

Junior Year Update

Through my involvement in several organizations, I made a visible difference on campus with respect to social justice, and helped foster a community where all identities can be celebrated. I was named the most active student and "recognizable face" at my university. But sometimes academics (and sleep) fell behind my extracurriculars. I changed my major from biology to religion. I am still premed, but I am also looking at alternate careers, such as higher education, student affairs, and journalism.

With my closest friend studying abroad, I had to branch out and make stronger personal connections. But I have missed home less and found myself smiling more. I walk around campus and feel like I'm supposed to be here.

Senior Year Update

This year was my most difficult academically, but also the most satisfying. With no physical science classes, I thoroughly enjoyed my studies. I also selected my career path. After graduation, I'll pursue a master's degree in higher education and student personnel at Kent State while also working as a graduate assistant and live-in Greek house director at Case Western Reserve. In my career, I hope to work on access to higher education and social justice equity.

My experience at U-Vermont is irreplaceable. I've learned so much academically and self-reflectively. But I wish I'd considered in-state schools with a lower price tag. And, when looking at colleges, I wish I had asked current students, faculty, and staff what they found most meaningful about being at their institutions. I think their answers might have helped me decide where I wanted to go. But, I know I chose the right school for me. I made memorable, lifelong connections here and found my voice and passions. I don't think I could have done that anywhere else.

Anywhere but Ohio

I want to be a neonatologist or a pediatric emergency physician so undergraduate college has always been simply the next step on the road to becoming a doctor. I researched out-of-state colleges with strong premed programs and put together a list with a wide range of admissions chances. I applied to Yale early action, as it was my dream school. My interview went exceptionally well. I'd already met my interviewer and his wife at the hospital when they toured the maternity ward where I volunteer. I was at the hospital when Yale decisions finally arrived. I was literally holding my breath as I checked the result on my phone. I was deferred! No big deal, I told myself. At least they were still interested in me.

Dashed dreams and a hopeful beginning

Then winter set in and I had a great interview with Penn. In the spring, decisions started to roll out, some with scholarships and some without any aid at all. Then that cruel "Ivy Decision Day" arrived. I expected at least one acceptance—but I was rejected from Yale and waitlisted at Penn. My Ivy dreams were crushed! With 2,500 of us gunning for 100 spots, I decided to get off the Penn waitlist.

In the end I chose my college from among the "public Ivies": U-Michigan, U-Virginia, and U-Vermont. I liked all of them, but University of Vermont was just large enough, had a good medical school, was eco-friendly, and had all the majors I wanted. Plus they admitted me to their Honors College and awarded me a generous scholarship.

My ups and downs

I was unable to visit any colleges because my parents and I were constantly busy. My dad works 86 hours per week. With keeping the yearbook on track and all the student council events, I had nowhere near enough time to leave and visit colleges. So I went to freshman orientation at U-Vermont having never seen the place. Fortunately, the campus is gorgeous. The people were super personable, and even though there is a major lack of diversity, I still felt like I belonged there. And with all the clubs and the good food, it seemed like it would work out.

What I learned

It was worth it to invest a lot of effort in my essay. While I did go over the recommended word count, it was a risk I was willing to take. I told the story of my parents' immigration from Ghana and how they started literally from nothing. And how my father persevered and became a physician and, with my mother, raised five kids.

College is one of the few chances to completely change your surroundings and go somewhere you choose. So take the chance and go out of state if it's really what you want to do. Cost is an important factor but it's not the only factor. It may not be worth it to sacrifice going somewhere you really want just to cut costs.

The money factor

We are relatively well off, but my parents are helping two kids in college at the same time, plus helping my other two brothers in their medical careers. So the total cost is kind of staggering. However, my father lives by the mantra that you cannot put a price on education, and if you're willing to work for it, you can go anywhere and the cost will find a way to take care of itself.

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