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Letter: What I Wish I Had Known About Applying to College

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Dear Editor,

A year ago this month, I received the long-awaited verdict from the college I had applied to Early Decision.

ED, as my peers and I called it, was a special kind of commitment. It involved letting just one school know that it is your absolute top choice by a significantly earlier deadline in hopes that they would choose you in return.

So when my chosen university, one with a low acceptance rate and a high national ranking, rejected me, I was crushed.

In all of my years of West Hartford Public Schooling, I had never really been told “no.” I’d made the teams, gotten the grades, been elected for the positions.

This rejection was one of my first, which only worsened the sting of the paragraph beginning with “we regret to inform you.”

I watched as my friends opened their decision “letters,” which became (like everything else) virtual during the pandemic.

As it turned out, a lot of them faced rejection, too.

How, I wondered, could Brown turn down my friend’s unwavering loyalty? UMass my other companion’s stellar advice-giving capabilities? UNC Chapel Hill her resilience? Vanderbilt his unique sense of humor?

Then it hit me. These universities didn’t really know my friends. The admissions counselors didn’t have the opportunity to hear our inside jokes, our intellectual debates, our energized discussions about our passions.

The totality of what these schools knew about us could be submitted via the Common App website. They weren’t rejecting (or for that matter, accepting) us, but our applications.

Distanced from the process a bit, I feel comfortable enough to give some of the advice that I probably would have welcomed in the few weeks after that fateful mid-December decision.

To those going through the college application process, or who will at some point:

It isn’t about you. Seriously. It’s about what each school wants, and whether or not your application reflects an ability to fill that super-specific gap. Syracuse might want a tuba-playing, math-loving kid from Wyoming (which you might not be).

You will find a place that values your strengths and your quirks, that values you. And if that university happens to be your top choice, great!

But if not, that might turn out to be great, too.

I ended up at a school that I applied to due to the fee waiver they emailed me a few weeks before the deadline. Since arriving, I have joined clubs, made friends, taken classes and engaged in opportunities that I wouldn’t have had access to anywhere else. How does that saying go, again? When one rejection letter is opened, hundreds more are addressed? Something like that.

Sending positive vibes from my college dorm room,

Greta Magendantz
West Hartford
Hall High School Class of 2021
Northeastern University


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