High Stakes: Chapter 1

By Catherine Wang 

Zoe: the Artist

Meet Zoe*, one of five seniors ready to share her tale of the college admissions process to Chronicle readers in the next eight issues.

Zoe has wanted to go to New York University since she was seven. She will apply to the university’s Tisch School of Arts. She has a clear career path in mind – one she will pursue regardless of the school she ends up attending. She has attended summer programs related to this career for the past two summers, and she hopes her passion will be evident to NYU.

When asked what draws her to NYU, she replied: “the location. There are lots of resources available, and I can be inspired by a lot of individuals.”

If Zoe is not accepted to NYU in the early pool, she will apply to a number of urban schools that have strong arts programs, including University of Southern California, Chapman University, Emerson University and Loyola Marymount University.
During the summer, Zoe began working on her college essay. Tisch School requires supplementary materials, including a portfolio, so she will be busy compiling her work over the next two months.

“Of course I’m really nervous [about the college admissions process], but I think everyone is. I just want to know where

I am going to go, so I’m excited about that.”

Carter: the Brain

Carter, who wants to major in applied math or physics, will apply early to Massachusetts Institute of Technology, California Institute of Technology, and University of Chicago, none of which are restrictive. The three schools all have strong math and science departments, and MIT and CalTech both have better acceptance rates for early application, he said.

There are schools he will apply to regular decision that he wouldn’t consider “safeties,” such as Harvard, Princeton, and Stanford. Unlike Harvard and Princeton, Stanford does offer early application, but Carter does not like that it is restrictive.

“I guess I’m weird in the sense that I don’t care about a lot of factors,” he said. “The Jumbo Tour during spring break taught me that I could be happy at a school in any location or any size.”

Carter has yet to decide what safety schools he will apply to if he does not get into any of the three schools.
Asked about his thoughts on the college process, Carter replied: “I guess there’s this abstract entity looming over all of us that’s the college we want to apply to. We’ve never talked to this entity, we don’t know its desires or its intents, but we’re required to appease this entity.”

Aiden: All-around

As of now, Aiden* does not want to apply to any school early.
“There really isn’t a school that stands out to me as a best choice,” he said. “I want to have more time to think about it. I don’t want to be tied down to any school.”
Aiden’s academic interests include history and science, but his academic interests have not particularly affected his college search.
“I’m looking at the school on a whole,” he said.
He is interested in attending a large school “comfortably” close to a city. Location in the country is not a major factor to him. Schools he is interested in applying to include University of Southern California, University of Michigan, Northwestern University, and Duke University. University of Pennsylvania has caught his eye as well, but he considers it as a “reach” school.

Aiden has a hand in many extra-curricular activities. He is a school club president, athlete, and a member of numerous school and non-school related organizations, including Model United Nations and Student Ambassadors. He has also held several volunteer jobs. But what Aiden hopes will set him apart as an applicant most is his ethnicity and socioeconomic background.

Over the summer, Aiden began filling in the Common Application and brainstorming essay topics.
“I’m just trying to find a topic that will get across who I am in one essay,” he said.


Alexis: the Athlete

Alexis*, a high-level athlete, is being recruited by several Division I colleges. For her, what matters in a school is its athletics; she hopes to attend a school with a strong athletic program. She is also interested in studying sports medicine.

“I want the school to really care about athletics, and that people are unified,” she said.
Over the summer, Alexis sent e-mails and films of her playing her sport to various coaches.
“Recently, coaches began being able to call us, so we’ve been talking,” she said. Alexis is in contact with Emory University, Saint Mary’s College of California, and University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

Alexis’s application process will differ greatly from that of most applicants. She has already taken unofficial visits to five schools, and in the fall she will take several official visits, meaning the school pays for the trip. She has already confirmed her trip to St. Mary’s and UMBC.
“It’s stressful, but exciting,” Alexis said. “Hopefully, I’ll have signed a letter of intent in November and will be committed somewhere.”


Madison: the Performer

Madison*, who describes herself as very “chill and relaxed” about the college admissions process, knows what type of school she wants to attend: small, diverse, strong in performing arts, and on the East Coast.

Right now, she plans on applying to Wesleyan University early decision. Her intended major is a popular one at the school.
“Everyone there has a great appreciation for the arts,” she said. Madison visited Wesleyan early in the summer and loved its rural location.
“But I mean, it’s only an hour and a half away from the city,” she said.

As for safety schools, Madison is thinking about Syracuse University and Boston University, both of which have strong performing arts programs. She also has “connections” at both schools.

“I would love to go to either of them,” she said. “I’m going to try really hard to get into the schools I want to go to, but I know I’ll be happy wherever I go.”
Madison is looking forward to the college admissions journey ahead of her.
“Everything is meant to be. I honestly believe that,” she said. “Where you end up – you have to embrace it.” 

*names have been changed

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