For the next couple of weeks, all of the Hopkins Interactive bloggers will be writing on a common theme: our thoughts and reflections on the college application process. We’ve all been exactly where you are now and hope that sharing our experiences will help you through this momentous (but challenging!) time in your life.
It is funny to think that a year ago today, I had visited twenty-six colleges – but Hopkins was not one of them. How I ended up here – at the very last school I visited – is largely thanks to my mother and a bit of divine intervention.
Like many prospective students, I really had no idea what I wanted in a college when I started the whole search process. Urban or rural campus? East or west coast? Tiny liberal arts college or giant university? I had no clue – so, I made my mom and three brothers visit them all!
Although I could not articulate exactly what kind of school I was looking for, I knew I would know it when I saw it. I remember in one of our many dinnertime discussions about college, my mother tried to tease out some definitive answers about what I was maybe looking for. The only concrete answer I could give her, was that I wanted all the buildings on campus to match. Needless to say she was not impressed with my superficial response.
And so my amazing, supportive family packed up our tan suburban with Lunchables and Gatorade, and criss-crossed the nation in search of my dream school. I cannot even imagine how my mom managed to drive those incredible distances, and how my brothers sat through information session after information session. And in visiting all those schools, I eventually figured out what I didn’t want in a school – which in turn led to finding I did want.
By December 2009, my list was down to six schools and had sent in all the applications. The list seemed a bit short, but it seemed pointless to apply someplace I knew I would never go – and those six were it.
While I was VERY tired of the application process and wanted just to be done, my mom insisted that I apply to just ONE more school. After many eye rolls and temper tantrums on my part, I agreed to send out one more application for a total of seven. But the problem was – I had nowhere else I wanted to apply.
And then my mom suggested Hopkins. Being the obstinate child I am, I immediately vetoed the idea. “It’s only for people who want to go to med school – I would never leave the library – they probably don’t even have a history department” were just a few of the reasons I felt JHU could never be the school for me.
But eventually I decided to placate her, and agreed to visit Homewood in exchange for missing a day of school and the promise of a delicious meal in Baltimore (funny I had to be bribed here, right?). And on December 23 – the day before my winter break started, we piled into the suburban for one last college road trip.
All it took was that one day on campus and I was sold. I fell in love with Hopkins. The weather was cold and dreary, but it did not matter. To me, Homewood was the most beautiful campus I had seen so far. And all my previous misconceptions about the school were dispelled by the remarkable day the Admissions office provided us with. At the information session, I learned how the university really supported undergraduate research, something that was especially important to me. On the tour, I learned of all the amazing activities to participate in, and events to attend here in Baltimore. I left campus that day itching to get home to NJ to send in my application to Hopkins.
And so I worked feverishly on my application, fueled by my excitement from the visit, and sent in my application to Hopkins the very next day. All that was left to do was wait.
And then it came. I was at the corner of Lincoln and Bellair Avenues, in the passenger seat of my best friend Nina’s car, jamming out to Bedrock or whatever song was on the radio, when I got THE email. I screamed so hard it is a miracle Nina didn’t crash. That forever will be one of the happiest moments of my life.
However, as excited as I was, I was not totally set on coming to Hopkins at that point. I had narrowed it down to top two, but being the incredibly indecisive person that I am could not commit. I then received the Woodrow Wilson Research Fellowship, which made me 99.9% sure I would be a Blue-Jay next year, but decided I needed to attend Admitted Students’ Day just to be sure.
Admitted Students’ Day exceeded my expectations, and then some. Every piece of information I gathered convinced me more and more that I had found my dream school. I made my mom go over to the Admissions Office that very day and pay my deposit, and then raided the school store. I left Baltimore decked out in blue and black, more excited than when I heard the Spice Girls were making a reunion tour.
Now that I am here, I have never doubted my decision to come here, not even for a moment. Yes there are times I miss home, especially my cats Jane and Charlotte, but I am so happy and busy with my life here that it is hard to be nostalgic for too long.
I know you prospective freshman are in the midst of the college admissions process, and might not think that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, but I promise you, there is one. It might not seem this way right now, but everything happens for a reason (any LOST/John Locke fans out there?) and you will end up at the school meant for you.
And so I will condense this long-winded blog with these pieces of advice:
- Listen to your parents. I know you’ve had eighteen years of them telling you what to do, and you have had enough, but trust me – don’t tune them out just yet. Though it is very hard for me to admit this, my mom more often than not is right or at the very least, onto a good idea. She was the force pushing me to consider Hopkins, and I am just thankful I was not stubborn enough to ignore her. Basically, don’t immediately reject your parents’ opinions, they’re smarter than they seem.
- Visit the school’s campus. I realize that it is hard finding the time to visit schools, or that you might live in an area that makes that impossible, but if you can, reallllly make the effort to see the school in person. Schools I loved on paper, I hated in person, and schools I thought I would hate, I loved in person (i.e. Hopkins).
- Get your essays done early. This piece of advice does not really apply to you current seniors, but for other students – write your essays the summer before senior year! Senior year is stressful enough with your schoolwork and extracurriculars, do yourself a favor and lighten the burden of first semester and get those essays done with early. Trust me, they are not as bad as everyone makes them out to be. Just sit down and write what you know.
- Don’t believe everything you hear. If this blog has taught you nothing else, take away this. Not all rumors about schools are true – give a school the benefit of the doubt and don’t make judgments based on what you hear. This goes back to advice #2, and visit the school in person and decide for yourself.
- Make sure to thank your family when it’s over. I know it is hard not to have a selfish perspective and only think of yourself and how the college process effects you, but it is all over, take a step back and consider your loved ones. Think of the sacrifices they made, and happily too because they love you, but sacrifices nonetheless. Take a moment and tell them you recognize what they did for you. Whether it is your little brothers who had to listen to countless hours of SAT scores and GPAs, or your mom who took you to twenty-seven different schools, make sure they know how much you love them, and will always remember what they did for you.
But most of all, just relax. The only thing stressing does is make things worse and give you a headache. You will end up where you are supposed to be, just make sure you keep an open perspective along the way. And enjoy senior year – it’s the best!