Ryan - Ohio University - Class of 2021
My second choice was a better fit for me—not just academically, but because of its diverse, laid-back campus environment.
I thought that when I applied for an early action decision to my top choice college, I'd receive my decision sooner—but I was wrong.
I wanted a large college with a good business school and Greek life. Miami University in Ohio was my first choice. I really loved the preppy atmosphere of the campus and its Farmer School of Business. It was the perfect distance from home (two hours), plus I knew a lot of people attending the school already.
I was a little nervous about my SAT and ACT scores because they were below average for Miami, but I hoped my achievements and internships would make me stand out. I was very active in DECA (an international club for students interested in business), and I had done three internships while in school, including one at an advertising and marketing agency specializing in cancer medications, which spurred my interest in pharmaceutical sales.
EA Is the Way to Go
I applied Early Action to every school on my list that offered it. I didn't see anything but an upside to applying early action. I'd get my decisions sooner and have better opportunities for housing and scholarships. It was a struggle to complete my apps by the EA deadlines, but the Common Application was a big help. I also took an English course over the summer before my senior year, which gave me the chance to finish my essay and get feedback from my English teacher before my senior year began.
I heard back from all of my colleges within two weeks of sending in my apps, except for Miami. A month later, I still hadn't heard. Some of my classmates had received admission offers from Miami, so I was concerned. I had been accepted to my second choice, Ohio University, and I wanted to have my decision settled.
In January, I received a letter from Miami, notifying me that I would receive my decision on March 15. This made me mad. I had gone to the trouble to apply early, and now I still had to wait? I didn't realize it at first, but I had been deferred. Miami was going to reconsider my application with the regular decision pool. But to me, it just meant more waiting. Miami was my first choice, so I didn't want to commit to another school until I heard from them.
On the day regular decisions from Miami were due, I was competing in a regional DECA championship where my partner and I were presenting a marketing project. Before the competition started, I checked Miami's website. When I saw I had been waitlisted, I was super upset. It almost felt worse than being denied. Even though I had made Miami's application a priority, I didn't feel I was a priority to them.
Why wait? Hello, Ohio!
When I got home that night, I thought about my offer from Ohio University. OU had not only offered me a merit scholarship, but also direct admission to its business school. Academically, its business school was on par with Miami's. It even had a center devoted to sales training and a sales certificate program, so it was more focused on my career goals. There was no reason to stay on Miami's waitlist. I put my housing deposit down and confirmed my intent for Ohio University. Looking back, I wish I had done it sooner.
My ups and downs
After waiting so long for a decision from Miami it was disappointing and frustrating to get waitlisted. It was even worse to get the bad news just before the regional DECA championships. But I pulled myself together, and hours later my partner and I took first place in the DECA competition! I thought, if I can win a competition like this, it's okay if Miami doesn't want me. It's their loss. We ended up winning the state championships and went on to the international competition where we took sixth place. A little part of me couldn't help thinking, "In your face, Miami!"
What I learned
I realized later that OU was a much better fit for me—not just because of its sales program, but because of its campus environment. While I liked the preppiness and Greek life at Miami, it also felt more exclusive to me. OU's campus felt more casual and laid back (I can go to class in my sweats if I want to), as well as more diverse ethnically and socioeconomically. On my multiple visits to OU, the students were all so welcoming. I am definitely going to be more comfortable there.
The money factor
My parents agreed to pay only for in-state tuition. If I chose a college out-of-state, I'd have to pay for the difference. This ruled out Indiana University. I was ecstatic when I was accepted there, but tuition was twice the cost of my Ohio schools. OU was not only less expensive, it gave me a merit scholarship covering about 10 percent of my costs. My parents will cover the rest.
While the Common Application makes applying to your schools easier (technically, you fill out one application and send it to all your schools), there are many details within the application that are time consuming. I found it helpful to complete the Common App a little bit at a time, as you can save your application and come back to it later.
Make sure you understand the early admission policies of the schools you are applying to. If you can, apply for Early Action, but remember that applying early doesn't always mean you'll receive a clear decision of accepted or denied right away. You could get deferred into the regular decision pool. So try to be patient.