Applying for two

Chronicle Staff

At the quintessentially ivy-covered South Philadelphia campus of the University of Pennsylvania, there are about 60 Harvard-Westlake alums pursuing higher education. Of the 60, at least two are wandering from class-to-class holding hands.

Although Carolyna DeLaurentiis ’06 and Steven Lundy ’06 chose to apply to the university separately, they had been dating for two and a half years when they left for school.

The two both applied early decision, but a wrench was thrown into the plans when DeLaurentiis got in early and Lundy got deferred.

“I mentally and emotionally prepared myself for us breaking up when we eventually would have to go off to different schools,” she said.

Lundy was accepted in the regular decision pool. Although DeLaurentiis was excited, she said, “I was worried it was going to be a really difficult transition.”

Upper School Dean Sharon Cuseo said she has had numerous student couples apply to college together, and many have shared DeLaurentiis’ worry.

“People assume that if they go to school together, it’ll be easy to stay together, but they get there, and they realize that it’s not,” she said. “What they’ve told me is that, although they haven’t tried both, it’s almost harder than going to different schools.”

So far, DeLaurentiis and Lundy have not encountered too many obstacles in their newly-transplanted relationship.

“There are so many expectations about what college has to be like and ‘getting a real college experience’ that I worried about it more than I had to,” DeLaurentiis said. “We’ve worked out a system, as funny as it sounds, but we both are committed to the idea that we have to go out and meet new people on our own. So when we go out at night we go our separate ways and get to introduce each other to the different people we met.”

While DeLaurentiis acknowledges what she sees as an inevitable breakup or, at the very least, some sort of trouble in paradise (“at some point it is going to be difficult being at school with him when we decide to take a break,” she said), for now, she is content with her situation.

“It’s nice to have someone you’re so close to when you’re so far away from your friends and family,” she said.

Isaac* ’07 and Aimee* ’07, who have been dating on and off for two years, see the DeLaurentiis—Lundy relationship as a sort of model for their own.

“That’s who we want to be,” Isaac said. “We’re always like, ‘We can be Carolyna and Steven,’ but that’s a lot of pressure to put on a relationship.” Isaac and Aimee also both plan to apply early to the University of Pennsylvania.

“At first we thought we were going to [different] schools that we now know are really, really unrealistic,” Aimee said. After this epiphany, the two separately decided that the University of Pennsylvania was each of their first choice.

“I chose first,” Aimee says.

She is quickly cut off by a rebuttal from Isaac: “Are you kidding? I chose first.”

“No, you chose three days after I did,” she says, shoving Isaac with her shoulder. “Maybe two.”

“I didn’t even know you chose at first.”
“Well, whatever,” Aimee finally relents, “…but I chose first.”

Isaac and Aimee have both told their parents that they are applying to the same school. Aimee’s parents do not see a problem with it, but Isaac’s father has some qualms.

“He doesn’t think I’m following her, but he’s afraid I am,” Isaac said. “But honestly, he wasn’t happy about me applying to college on the East coast anyway, even before I was going to apply to Penn.”

Isaac and Aimee have not told their deans that they are applying to college with a significant other—or even that they have a significant other, for that matter.

Isaac and Aimee have faced the possibility that they will end up apart—geographically, at the very least.

“We do talk about this a lot,” Aimee says with a slight groan. “Honestly, if neither of us gets into Penn, there’s a very slim chance that we will actually go to school together.”

Although the two are interested in different types of schools (besides the University of Pennsylvania, Aimee is looking at mainly smaller schools, while Isaac likes schools of the same size or bigger), they have made some concessions for each other.

Aimee has added the University of Michigan, a state university that has approximately 23,000 undergraduates, to her list, while Isaac added Middlebury College, a liberal arts college in Vermont that has a population approximately one-tenth the size of Michigan’s.

Still, they recognize that a separation could be in their future.

“In that case, we’re going to try to stay together and see what happens,” Isaac adds. “The thing I like about the East coast is that everything’s close together. All my friends will be near there. This one will be near there.” He motions to Aimee.

“Even if we’re not together-together, we’ll still talk a lot,” she responds. “I mean, he’s one of my best friends.”

According to an August Newsweek article, experts say that high school relationships are, for the most part, doomed to fail come college time for two reasons.

The first is the sheer number of opportunities to meet new people. The second is that most colleges do not provide a way for incoming freshmen to deal with having a long-distance relationship.

Orientation sessions prefer to focus on meeting new people on campus rather than maintaining relationships with those miles away.

Despite the dread that accompanies the phrase “long-term relationship,” some couples separated by thousands of miles do consider the possibility.

“The funny thing is, and I haven’t done a big survey of this, it’s only anecdotally, but it seems like the couples who stay together are the ones who actually go to different schools,” Cuseo said. “That way, they really have to think about their relationship and be serious about it.”

Cuseo recently received an invitation to the wedding of Melissa Umezaki ’00 and Jamie Long ’00. The two, who will be married in May 2007, were sepa rated by about 1,200 miles for the majority of their college years.

Umezaki attended Williams College in Williamstown, Mass., while Long headed to Carleton College in Northfield, Minn.

Cuseo’s hypothesis may seem contradictory—the chances of any relationship surviving four years of frat parties, beer bongs and the possibility of anonymous dorm-room hook-ups seem slim to none—she does have a reason: it is healthier to attempt the frightening long-distance relationship than to choose a school based on another person’s preferences.

“You’re going to end up resenting the other person, because you chose the school based on them, not based on what’s right for you,” she said.

Her advice: if a high school couple wants to survive four years of college and come out unscathed and functional, it is not proximity that will do the trick. Cuseo said she believes it is effort that will keep any relationship together. She points out that any college student will probably have summers wide open for reunions and quality time together.

Taylor Heisley-Cook ’07 and Gioachino Ragosta ’05 got together at the beginning of the 2004 – 2005 school year. They were together while Ragosta was applying to college, but, Heisley-Cook said, their relationship did not affect his college list.

When Ragosta left for the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Wash., the two decided to break up. A year later they were reunited during the school’s Edinburgh trip.

“After lots of drama, we got back together,” Heisley-Cook said. In August it came time for Ragosta to go back to Washington, and the pair was again faced with the decision: break up or attempt the long-distance relationship?

“Originally he had a lot of doubts, then I had a lot of doubts,” Heisley-Cook said. “Then we decided we loved each other, so we should work it out.”

The two talked on the phone multiple times per day, Heisley-Cook said. Ragosta has since returned to Los Angeles for family reasons and attends Santa Monica College.

“I talk to him on the phone all the time,” Heisley-Cook said, “and I’m actually seeing him tonight. I see him all the time.”

Heisley-Cook is not planning on staying in Southern California for college, but she said this has not yet become an issue in the relationship.

“We’re going to deal with it when the time comes,” she said. For now, Isaac and Aimee are not letting the college situation get to them. In the end, Aimee says simply, “It’ll work out.”

“That’s a phrase we use a lot,” Isaac says. “When we aren’t applying to the same school, we always used to say we’d split train fares.”

*Isaac’s and Aimee’s names were withheld at their request.