Rachel - Mount Holyoke College - Class of 2019

Rachel - Class of 2019
I definitely applied to too many schools. But I had a unique academic situation and I feared that I wouldn't get in anywhere.

I wanted to study languages, poetry, and music at a small, liberal arts college on the east coast, but my counselor said he'd never seen anyone in my academic situation. He told me not to get my hopes up.

  • Hometown: Mount Laurel, NJ
  • High School: Public
  • GPA: 3.67
  • ACT: 28
  • Major: Romance languages
  • Goal: Take classes in new things, explore music and poetry

Freshman Year Update

First semester, I wondered why I was here and if college was even right for me. I had several health problems, including tinnitus (ringing of the ears), which made it difficult to hear people in English, let alone in my Spanish and Italian classes! I did not socialize and barely skated by academically.

But this semester everything is different! My health is much better. I am taking four classes and thriving. I am attending campus events and building friendships. I'm even taking two classes at Smith College (poetry and Italian cinema), so half of my week I am traveling off campus, which I love.

My favorite part of college is the people. Everyone here is wickedly smart and passionate about what they do, but not in a pretentious way. It's also gratifying to do things independently and make my way into the world. It isn't as scary as I thought it would be.

Creating course rigor without APs

In my freshman year of high school, I contracted a disorder that causes bouts of severe pain all over my body. It got so bad, I couldn't attend school. After missing half of my freshman year, I tried home-bound education and an alternative school, but neither was ideal. So I ended up finishing high school through a program at my community college, which offered the most flexibility.

I wasn't sure how my situation would be viewed by colleges. My grades and test scores were good, but I lacked course rigor because the community college had no AP or honors courses, and not many clubs. So I had to be creative. I took two languages, created an online literary magazine, did a remote internship with a book publisher, and helped edit a national high school magazine. Still, I feared I wouldn't get in anywhere.

The longest college list ever

I applied to many (too many!) schools. I not only had safety, target, and reach schools, I had target-plus, low-reach, mid-reach, and high-reach schools. My first choice was Bryn Mawr, where my mother had gone for graduate school. I loved its traditions and academics. I also needed good support services due to my pain disorder, so attending a familiar school was a plus. I applied for an early decision but was denied. I went through the five stages of grief and listened to sad music alone in my room for days.

Later, I was denied from almost all of my reaches, but I was accepted to a lot of other great schools. I was really happy when I got into Drew with a scholarship (I didn't think I'd get any scholarships)!

Discovering sisters and support

I was visiting Washington College when I got my acceptance email from Mount Holyoke. They sent my financial aid offer at the same time, so I knew right away that it was affordable! I immediately joined Mount Holyoke's Facebook group and started communicating with the other girls. They were so much like me (awkward, weird, smart, and nerdy)! I was so excited!

But I needed to make sure Mount Holyoke had the support services I needed. So my parents and I went to accepted students weekend—and I was even more impressed. The kids had a real passion for the school and for learning. The support services were amazing, and my mom felt weight lift off her shoulders knowing I would be well taken care of. I even met three other girls with the same or similar pain disorders! It was clear that Mount Holyoke does everything it can to help all students succeed.

When my dad walked into the school store and bought me a Mount Holyoke shirt in my favorite color, I knew he was sold. And so was I.

My ups and downs

My financial aid situation changed three times during the application process, and that was stressful. At first, my father had a well-paying job. Then he was laid off, so I had to update my FAFSA. Then, he got another job, so I had to send an addendum to the addendum!

I also struggled with my essay. When I started it, nothing was working, so I took a chance and waited for something to come to me. Finally, about a week before the essay was due, I decided to write about therapy. Sounds crazy, right? I had a couple people look over my essay, including my ACT tutor, and they loved it. So I took a risk, and I think it made me stand out. In fact, Drew mentioned in my acceptance letter that they were really impressed by my essay, which felt awesome!

What I learned

Procrastination is your enemy, stress gets you nowhere, and sometimes, everything works out in the end.

The money factor

I received a lot of need-based grants, some loans, and work-study. Mount Holyoke will cost me less than an in-state school and my loans will be minimal.

My advice

If financial aid is important, think twice about applying for an early decision, as the financial aid stuff can get messy. Pick safety schools you would be happy to go to, and talk to your guidance counselor and current students. Be realistic and you will find your school.