Alexander - Northwestern University - Class of 2027

"Choosing Northwestern was an easy decision for me. But it wasn't easy to convince my parents.”

  • Hometown: Aurora, CO
  • High School: Public
  • GPA: 3.89/4.3 (weighted)
  • SAT/ACT: Not submitted
  • Major: Journalism and Political Science
  • Goal: Career in broadcast journalism
  • Extracurriculars: Team captain of nationally ranked speech and debate team; national double octafinalist in World Schools Debate; student council secretary and vice president; National Honors Society; Key Club; Peer Accountability Board; service learning


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I completed 58 college applications, more than 30 essays, and applied for 12 scholarships. After 25 denials, 8 waitlists and 25 acceptances, I’ve learned to handle rejection, stress, and family conflict.

I applied to more than 50 schools because I was afraid no colleges would accept me. As a first-generation college student, I wanted to give myself as many options as possible and also challenge myself.

I began researching colleges in May of my junior year of high school, looking at each school’s location, graduation rate, diversity, financial aid, and journalism program. I was open to any sort of location because I love to see new places! Columbia University with its diverse, urban campus, was my first choice. But it was hard to beat the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern, which I had wanted to apply to ever since I watched the movie The Devil Wears Prada, because the main character has a Northwestern journalism degree. 

What I Did Last Summer: College Apps

During the summer before my senior year, I spent about two to four hours a day on college applications. Because I started so early, I didn’t have much difficulty or stress completing my applications. I also love writing and telling stories, so I found it easy to write the essays.

I was done with most of my applications in October, when everyone else I knew was just starting them. I thought I could now enjoy the rest of my senior year, but I wasn’t ready for the stress and changing emotions I was about to experience.

My Ups and Downs, Starting with Columbia

On December 15, I got my early decision from Columbia. I thought I was going to get deferred, but I got flat-out rejected. I was scared of getting more rejections after that. Soon, most of my days were controlled by an admissions decision and I couldn’t focus on anything else until that “decision released” email popped up on my phone.  

In February, I was admitted to Colorado College, which was exciting. The director of college access at my high school was an alumna and she always spoke highly of it. My tight-knit family was also happy because Colorado College is close to home. 

Part of me felt ready to commit to Colorado College right then, especially because I knew it was the college my parents wanted for me. But I didn’t want to close down my options so early. 

My Possibilities Expand

I’m so glad I waited, because I later received acceptances to University of Southern California, Northwestern and University of Michigan, among others – and with these acceptances, everything changed. After worrying that I wouldn’t be admitted anywhere, I now had multiple options to consider!  Although my family seemed excited for the opportunities I received, they also seemed sad that I could be leaving them.

After reviewing financial aid packages, my three finalists were USC, Northwestern, and Colorado College. Northwestern had amazing opportunities in my major, and they gave me the best financial aid package. Choosing Northwestern was an easy decision for me. But it wasn’t easy to convince my parents, especially my dad, who is a man who wants all of his family to be close and never be separated.

My Parents Let Go

In late March, we had a kitchen conversation about my college choices. We looked at the financial aid packages, locations, resources, and opportunities during and after college. We compared all scenarios and it was clear that Northwestern was the best option financially and for my future. 

Then, my dad offered to pay for all of my school if I stayed in Denver – which would cost much more. My parents built their lives from the ground up, and I didn’t want them to face a huge financial burden. I kept saying “No” to my Dad’s offers; he kept saying “Don’t leave for Chicago. What about us?”  I’m not going to lie, lots of tears came in like a storm – for everyone. I told him, “It’s just for four years, Dad. I’ll come back to Denver for breaks.”

I love my family very much, but I wanted to take advantage of the best opportunities available – opportunities which were largely possible because they put so much hard work into me. Finally, I said,  “It’s for the best, it’s for you, mom, and the family – for all of the struggles and sacrifices you've made.” Finally, he agreed with my decision. I cried myself to sleep that night, grateful for his stamp of approval on the next chapter of my life. 

I have to admit, I felt a bit scared to leave home for school. But, as Northwestern alumni and current students reached out to me, I felt more at ease. Now I’m excited to experience Chicago, try Chicago pizza, and most of all, learn how to “write boldly and tell the truth fearlessly,” just like Joseph Medill said.

What I learned

Teamwork makes a dream work. It’s important to communicate with your family and hear the perspectives and opinions of those who truly care about you and want the best for you. I am grateful everyone in my family could share their feelings and come to a decision together.

I am not solely defined by an admissions decision. From the start, I knew rejections, waitlists, deferrals, and acceptances would come. Yet, I didn’t really know how to handle all of that. Sadness, happiness, and anger were emotions I felt multiple times, but as I received more decisions, I stopped letting my emotions get the best of me.

The Money Factor

Most of my college costs will be covered by need-based scholarships from Northwestern, federal Pell and SEOG grants, federal work-study, and student loans. I’ll also be using some money from my parents and money earned from working over the summer. 

My advice

  • Be organized. My only regret about applying to so many schools is that they send you SO. MANY. EMAILS. To keep track of all the information, correspondence, and applications, I used a Google doc to record every school’s location, acceptance rate, my application status, and facts about the degree  program I applied to. I used a planner to record deadlines, and I set up reminders on my phone.  
  • Learn ways to relax. Whatever helps you calm down (music, exercise, drawing, etc.) will be helpful during the college application process. 
  • Don’t be so hard on yourself. If you get rejected from your dream college, treat yourself kindly. Trust that everything will eventually fall into place.

How CollegeData Helped Me on My Road to College

CollegeData gave me all the information I needed while researching colleges: graduation rates, application deadlines, in and out-of-state tuition, and location! I used College Chances to confirm my reach, match and safety schools. The Student Stories helped me realize that no matter what institution I get into, I will be fine and thrive. 



Read More Student Stories:



Nolan - Colorado State University "Choosing Northwestern was an easy decision for me. But it wasn't easy to convince my parents.”



Brooklyn - University of Chicago “Every teacher I worked with said not to write my essay about trauma — but I wanted to write about my life, how hard I have worked, and what I have been able to accomplish despite, and also because of, my past struggles.”

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