Amanda - Colgate University - Class of 2017
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Colgate went out of its way to make me feel welcome—and met every single one of my qualifications.

I came into the college process thinking that I couldn't lose. I was one of the top students in my small-town public school, I had straight A's, and my test scores were the bomb. The only thing standing between me and my letter of acceptance was an essay, or so I thought.

Hometown: Reading MA

High School: Public

GPA: 3.90 / 4.48 (weighted)

SAT: 2350

Major: Chemistry

Goal: Study mathematical systems biology and Russian, and study abroad

College

Status

Colgate UniversityAttending
Cornell UniversityDenied
Dartmouth CollegeDenied
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (EA)Deferred/ Denied
Middlebury CollegeWaitlisted
Princeton UniversityWaitlisted
Stanford UniversityDenied
Swarthmore College Denied
University of Massachusetts, Amherst (EA)Accepted
Washington and Lee UniversityWaitlisted
Williams CollegeWaitlisted
Freshman Year Update

I was afraid I'd be the only kid who couldn't adapt to college life. But it was much easier than I expected! EVERYONE wants friends. After meeting people once, I was welcome to eat with them and was often invited to hang out later. My roommate and I made friends just by leaving our door open. But living on a floor with 30 people is difficult. The walls are thin, and people are loud. So be prepared for anything, including "floorcest." That's when people on the same floor become romantically involved. If the relationship goes bad, the consequences can affect the entire floor!

Academically, I was completely unprepared for the long chemistry labs. It's hard to focus for three hours straight. Luckily, my professors are incredibly helpful. One agreed to tutor me; another recommended me for extended study in Kazakhstan and Russia; and a third hired me as a lab assistant. They honestly care about my success—it's one of my favorite things about Colgate.

Sophomore Year Update

I declared my major in molecular biology instead of chemistry. Now I can take more classes that interest me, including physics, biology, and neuroscience. Next year I'll be studying in Botswana! I convinced Colgate to approve the program so I would get credit toward my major. Since I won't get work-study while I'm abroad, I'm applying for scholarships to help cover the cost.

Besides my classes, my schedule is busy! I was in the school play, I volunteer as a SAT tutor, and have two jobs. But I save Thursday and Friday evenings for my friends. I've also gone skiing and caving with the college's outdoor program. While I miss having restaurant options and proximity to grocery stores, I still love the rural setting of Colgate. It's beautiful year-round.

Junior Year Update

This year I studied abroad in Botswana and traveled throughout southern Africa. It was quite an adventure, from sandboarding and sleeping under the stars, to raising money for reproductive health education for female sex workers, to working in a preschool where I barely spoke the language.

Back at Colgate, I am still pursuing a molecular biology major. But it's a little hard to stay motivated. Now that I know a little more about the world, I can't wait to explore it. I have decided to take a gap year after college to work in Central Asia.

Even with two campus jobs, money is tight. I left the meal plan to cut costs, so my diet isn't the best (I'll sometimes eat nothing but canned soup or scrambled eggs for days). But that's the college life, and I'm living it and loving it!

Driven by a deadline

I wanted a highly selective, top-ranked college with good chemistry and Russian language programs. Among the eleven schools on my list, Williams was my top choice, followed by MIT, where my dad works, and Princeton, my parents' alma mater. I was determined to submit all of my applications by November 1. I am a Type-A personality, and usually deadlines motivate me and help me produce my best work.

Unfortunately, this wasn't the case with my essay. I hated my first attempt because it was too conventional. My second essay sounded like me, but my English teacher thought it didn't accomplish my desired goals. But I was determined to meet my personal November 1 deadline. On October 30, I snapped. I threw together an essay that mimicked other college essays I had seen. No one else looked at it. I submitted it to ten schools. Then I sat back, waiting for the acceptances to pour in.

And the letters did pour in—but they were rejection letters—from Cornell, Dartmouth, MIT, Stanford, and Swarthmore. Then I was waitlisted to Middlebury, Princeton, Washington and Lee, and Williams. I was accepted only to University of Massachusetts and Colgate, which were both safeties. I began to sulk. The message was clear: I was not as good as I thought I was. My grades and test scores did not make me invincible. I decided to stay on the waitlists at Princeton and Williams and if I wasn't accepted to either school by August 1, I would attend Colgate.

Colgate falls into place

I remained in a mopey, self-deprecating state through most of April and May. Then, something amazing happened. I joined the Colgate Accepted Students Facebook group, and I met somebody exactly like me, albeit she lives in Hong Kong. We decided to be roommates. Suddenly, everything started falling into place. My roommate and I got one of the nicest dorm rooms on campus. I received all of my first-choice classes and discovered all of them have less than 30 students (one has only 13)! I went to Accepted Students Day and stayed overnight. There, I met some of my future professors and classmates—and ended up registering for a pre-orientation backpacking and rock-climbing adventure in the Adirondack Mountains!

Colgate also went out of its way to make me feel welcome—even increasing my financial aid when I asked. Looking back, I should not have been so amazed. Colgate met every single one of my original qualifications, which was the reason I had applied there in the first place.

Eventually, the letters from Princeton and Williams arrived. Each one possibly held an acceptance off of the waitlist. To my surprise, I decided not to open them. I didn't want to know. Colgate is an amazing school, one that I look forward to attending, and I didn't want the results of the letters to curb my optimism. Because if I have learned anything, it is that attitude makes all the difference.

My ups and downs

My lowest point was the day I got rejected from Stanford. I had been rejected or waitlisted to eight schools already, and Stanford was my last hope.

I am very happy to have met my roommate—she has become my best friend. We have so many things in common—including the fact that we both don't drink. I was anxious about attending a small college where parties are a big part of the social scene. I worried that my decision not to drink would ruin my social life. It was wonderful to meet other Colgate students who didn't drink and get a different perspective of the social atmosphere.

What I learned

If I could do it over, I would have applied regular decision to all my colleges—with no unrealistic self-imposed deadlines. The deadline I chose was too difficult to achieve. Most of all, I'd take more time with my college essay and have others review and proofread it.

The money factor

I received a grant from Colgate and I'm getting a work-study job on campus. My parents' college savings will also help get me through my first year. After that, I'll have to rely on financial aid.

My advice

Take your time. Be cautious. Rankings aren't everything. Finally, if you are rejected from your top-choice college, don't despair! Finding all the things you love about your chosen school will make the future seem much brighter.