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Emma - College of William and Mary - Class of 2016

student photo

I know everyone says this, but it's true: even if you don't get into your top schools, everything will work out.

I really wanted a small, liberal arts school so I could study a range of topics before deciding on a major. I also wanted a strong student community filled with students like myself: curious, quirky, and fun-loving. But I didn't realize that the colleges I wanted might not want me. I was waitlisted by all my top choices! I felt like I didn't even want to go to college anymore!

Hometown: Avondale Estates GA

High School: Public

GPA: 3.94 / 4.15 (weighted)

SAT: 2280

Major: Global studies

Goal: Learn who I am and what I can do



College of William and MaryAttending
Barnard CollegeWaitlisted
Colorado CollegeAccepted
Davidson College Waitlisted
Middlebury CollegeWaitlisted
Rhodes CollegeAccepted
University of GeorgiaAccepted
Wesleyan UniversityWaitlisted
Freshman Year Update

College is so much better than high school! The people are more interesting, you can choose the subjects you want to study, and there are tons of activities. After realizing that I could do what I wanted (like skip class or sleep in), I kind of became my own parent and reminded myself how lucky I am to be here. I am also careful to watch how much money I'm spending and what I'm spending it on; my friend blew through $2,000 the first semester.

I love dorm life because I live with my friends, but it can be claustrophobic at times. (My roommate's boyfriend is around all the time, to the point where I feel like I'm dating him!) Managing my spare time was the hardest part. I watched TV and ate a lot, which resulted in the dreaded Freshman 15! I now have a healthier routine.

Sophomore Year Update

I declared my major: global studies with a concentration in European studies. My professors are great and I love my classes. The major involves a lot of languages, so I decided to study abroad. This summer I will be studying in Italy, and I'll be spending my junior year in Spain!

I also joined a sorority which was one of the best decisions. I had negative stereotypes about Greek life at other colleges, but at William and Mary it is super laid back and not what I expected. Now I am way more active on campus than I was before, and I have amazing friends.

I sometimes wonder what my life would be like if I had gotten into Barnard, but you can't change the past, and I am incredibly happy here!

Junior Year Update

When I decided to study abroad in Spain for my entire junior year, I was afraid I'd miss my life at William & Mary—and I do—but it has been so worth it!

My language abilities have improved beyond my wildest dreams—I came here speaking broken Spanish and now I consider myself almost fluent. And my classes (almost all of them taught in Spanish) have reinforced that I chose the right major. The worst thing was getting food poisoning twice, ear infections twice, and the flu. Those were the times when I felt most homesick.

Although I will miss life in Europe, I can't wait to be back on campus. I want to savor every last minute of my senior year!

Barnard or bust

Unlike most of my friends, by the end of my junior year I had no idea what I wanted in a college or what I wanted to study. So my parents and I spent five days visiting six campuses in the Northeast. I quickly figured out that my ideal college campus had trees on it, did not have beer-drinking as the only available weekend activity, and was not freezing. But nothing really clicked until I visited Barnard College in New York City. I knew immediately it was the one. The students were vivacious and confident and the idea of becoming a "Barnard woman" was so appealing. I turned in my application to Barnard without any doubt that I would get in. But my happy-ever-after college story was about to take a turn for the worse.

The Queen of Runners-upville

The last week in March was the most stressful in my life! First, I was waitlisted at two of my top schools. Then came the day I expected to get my Barnard letter. I was hopeful and untroubled. I sped home, and there it was: the dreaded small envelope. I screamed. I cried. I punched things. I wrote Barnard a hateful letter. I deleted that letter and wrote another explaining why I was right for them and why they were right for me. My coach, counselor, and a teacher wrote letters too. It felt so unfair! I had six friends accepted to Ivy League schools that week, and I couldn't get into a non-Ivy liberal arts school. I felt incompetent, embarrassed, pitiful, and useless. After getting one more waitlist letter, I felt like queen of runners-upville. I was good, just not good enough.

Then I managed to stop my pity party and began to look at the bright side: I still had four great schools that wanted me and that I could revisit. When I had first visited William and Mary over the summer, no students were on campus. I was unimpressed. For me, the most important factor in choosing a college was the people. When I went back, however, I was able to talk to tons of students! I heard many great things about the school from everyone. If all of these interesting and different personalities could be happy here, I was sure I could too! Also, I love Williamsburg and the history surrounding the campus, and the academics are great. Plus, William and Mary is a public university, and even with the out-of-state tuition, it's cheaper than a private college.

My ups and downs

It hurts to be turned down from a college you've poured your heart and soul into. It felt like a boulder had dropped into my stomach when I read Barnard's waitlist letter. I cried all afternoon. Getting rejected or waitlisted at the college where you know you belong really is a grieving process.

I think making the final decision was my best moment. It is such a relief just to have that decision made and to know that, at least for a little while, you don't have to worry about college anymore. Until housing forms and orientation forms and registration forms start pouring in, that is!

What I learned

You can't get a feel for a college until you're walking around the campus when school is in session. Visiting before you apply is great, but visiting after you've been accepted is even better. Then you're looking at the school and the students in a whole different way: it's not just "Could I see myself applying here?" it's "Could I see myself thriving here for the next four years?"

Barnard required four supplemental essays and I blew through them in a day. I think that's the main reason why I got waitlisted. It's not that my supplements were bad; they just weren't as thoughtful and streamlined as my main essay was. I really wish I had spent more time on those supplements!

The money factor

Because I'm an only child, my family has been saving for my personal college fund since I was born, and we're paying for it with that money.

My advice

I know everyone says this, but it's so true: even if you don't get into your top school (or even your top four schools), everything will work out. I can't wait to get to the beautiful campus and meet all my new, cool friends. It might not be New York City, but to me, it's just as good.

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