Jamie - Case Western Reserve University - Class of 2018

Jamie - Class of 2018
I thought where you got in defined you as a person, so when I was denied by all of my top choices, I was devastated.

I always pictured myself going to a prestigious university that every single person had heard of. But I enrolled in a college I had considered a "safety" school. Now I realize it should have been one of my top choices.

  • Hometown: Chestnut Hill, MA
  • High School: Public
  • GPA: 3.88 / 4.39 (weighted)
  • SAT: 2120
  • Major: Biomedical engineering
  • Goal: Pursue my interests in science and technology and find my passion.

Freshman Year Update

I didn't expect to love Case as much as I do! It wasn't my first choice, so I came in with lower expectations. But getting here and finding people I automatically clicked with has been really great.

Though, my first day at college was difficult. I had no idea where anything was. My roommate and I were uncomfortable with each other and didn't make much conversation. But orientation threw everyone into a whole day of activities, and I began to bond with my roommate and suitemates. Now we are all best friends, and whenever my roommate goes home on the weekends, I miss her!

The best thing about Case is that everyone is really focused on their academics. Even extremely social people here often choose to stay in on the weekends to study. So you can feel comfortable doing the same without being labeled "antisocial." This makes me focus on academics a lot more than I might have at other schools, yet I'm still able to socialize and meet people in my free time. For me, it's the ideal social/academic environment!

Sophomore Year Update

My classes have definitely gotten more challenging, but they are also more interesting and enjoyable, and I ended up getting my highest grades yet. I realized that electrical and computer-related classes interest me the most, and studying for them never feels like a chore. So now I am double-majoring in biomedical and electrical engineering and minoring in computer engineering.

I pushed myself to participate in more activities this year, including a student-run research project on medical devices, the Biomedical Engineering Society, and an autism advocacy group. I enjoy extracurriculars related to my academic interests more than anything else. But the downside is that I've drifted from a great group of girls I met freshman year.

Sometimes I wonder if I would enjoy going to a school closer to home or in a larger city. But I don't think any other school would give me a better academic experience.

Junior Year Update

The focus at Case is on academic excellence, which has definitely helped me. But I realized that college is also about creating memories I'll remember 20 years from now. So this year I spent more time with my friends and in extracurriculars, including mentoring freshmen women in tech. I struggled to find balance between my schoolwork and my social life, but my college life was much fuller.

I'm excited to now be exploring the software side of biomedical engineering, after switching my concentration to computing and analysis. I was also lucky enough to receive a scholarship from the Alumni Association that will help cover my costs for senior year.

Despite my huge workload here, choosing Case was the right decision. I'm always meeting new people and discovering opportunities that will set me up for future success.

Obsessed with numbers

I had a lot of selective colleges on my list that were reaches for me. I was determined to get into one of them, because I thought the colleges you got into defined you as a person. So I worked myself to the bone junior year, receiving the highest grades of my high school career, and scoring well on my subject tests, AP exams, and SAT. I felt like my "numbers" were strong enough to get me into at least one of my reach schools.

Four days before I expected to receive my early decisions, I got an email from Washington University in St. Louis—my first choice. I immediately opened it. It was a deferral, but it felt equal to a rejection. Next, I was deferred by MIT. Strangely, because it was my biggest reach, this deferral gave me a sliver of hope. Then came Tuft's deferral. I held out hope that all my hard work would pay off, but I also began to worry that nothing was going to work out.

Safeties get a second look

In April, I was rejected or waitlisted from all my top choices, as well as schools that I thought were good matches for my grades and test scores. I was devastated. My four "safety" schools did accept me. Although I should have been elated, my rejections completely eclipsed this news. Instead, I felt angry because people all around me—people who to me seemed less qualified—were getting into prestigious schools I thought I deserved more than they did!

I hadn't visited any of my safeties because I thought I wouldn't have to consider them. Since Case Western was offering me the largest financial aid package, I went for a visit. I liked that the campus was within a city, but still felt like a college with a traditional quad and lots of green space. It was also my ideal size—about 5,000 undergrads. I knew it had an amazing science and engineering program, but I was also impressed by how many hospitals and medical buildings were either on campus, or a few blocks away. The best part was talking to the students—I felt their passion for the school and their overall sense of contentment. I knew I could be happy there because of all it had to offer. When I got home, I didn't feel the need to visit the other colleges that accepted me. Choosing Case was easy.

My ups and downs

The highlight of the application process was writing my college essay! I wrote about my experiences working with a ten-year-old non-verbal boy with Autism, and how I realized my aspirations to develop technology through our struggles to communicate through his communication device. I was so passionate about this topic it didn't feel like a writing assignment. If I could have written more, I would have! My worst moment was opening my deferral from Washington University. It was painful mostly because it was my first college decision, but also because I had put so much hope into this one school.

What I learned

During the first semester of senior year, I continued to push myself academically and achieve high grades, despite the ongoing stress from college admissions. I know that I can work past my limits, and that I will succeed wherever I end up. College is just a place to discover myself, prepare for the future, and learn. It doesn't define who I am.

The money factor

Case Western's financial aid package included a large merit-based scholarship and a university grant. So the price will be the same as attending an in-state public school.

My advice

You only go through senior year once! Try to plan ahead and get your college essays done over the summer. Also, consider factors like the college's student body size, campus, and environment as early as possible. Unfortunately, I did not think about these things at the beginning of the process, and therefore had less time to research other schools that might have been a fit for me. Finally, try not to worry! After senior year, you will be someplace where everyone wants to thrive as much as you do.