Name: Catherine Orlando
Year: Class of 2018
Hometown: Harrison, NY
Intended Path of Study: Neuroscience
The Bluejay That Almost Wasn’t
“I’m really starting to worry that you won’t fit.”
This one-liner has been playing on repeat on my house since the first college item was purchased. First, the implication is not that all of my worldly possessions won’t fit, it’s that me, my person, won’t fit. Second, the first item was a 3.5″ x 4″ wallet, so I’m not exactly sure why this item in particular had my family so worried about my ‘fit.’
Clearly I can fit into small spaces with adequate food and water for survival.
These jokes led to seriously real closet clean outs. The first to go? Tee shirts from other college campuses. I mean why keep them? Going to the dream school, there will be plenty of tee shirts there, why keep a shirt from a school I didn’t even like all that much? But I stumble upon a few, from college road trips, that remind me of one thing:
Hopkins is the school that almost wasn’t.
Now, I know what you’re thinking–Catie found a shirt from Yale and well, Yale was her first choice Hopkins was her second, Yale denied her and Hopkins didn’t. Nope. Or, Catie found a shirt from Stanford and thought about what a tough decision it was after they both accepted her. Incorrect (I did not even apply to Stanford, for the record). Or maybe, she found a Duke sweatshirt and well–regardless, none of these things happened. I like to think that my story is much more humorous (in retrospect at least) and slightly less commonplace.
University of Pennsylvania. You go on a tour their and the guides wear microphones on their jacket lapels because it’s an Ivy and every tour is jam packed, and they babble about that toast story—actually a good one if you haven’t heard it, but not my story, you won’t hear it here. My parents always pushed me towards the front of the crowd, “you’re young! Hustle to the front and tell us all that you hear,” so of course I was doing that on the 12th (12th?) college trip on a 2 week spring break. Fun vacation, right?
I get a call from my father (here, for a time, it gets moderately not so funny, but bear with me) “come back,” he says, “I’m sick.” I’m baffled. Sick? I turn and I walk back 100, 200 yards, I find him on a bench, and my mother at the famed blue light system. I go to her first. She’s frantic. “My husband needs an ambulance, he’s having a heart attack,” of course this is all news to me, but I’m moderately okay at this point, people survive heart attacks all the time, and more importantly the blue light system will pull us through! (Keep in mind, I was going on two weeks of daily preaching of the glory of the blue light system).
I go to him. He’s calm, “I’m really fine.” Well now.
What happens next is funny (not funny then, funny now, only in retrospect). It’s been five minutes, the blue light has honestly failed us (if I were dying, I’d be dead!) and a security guard saunters out of a building, students are watching, I hate being a spectacle. “You need an ambulance?” The degree to which this guy was probably naturally aloof wasn’t helping him, because my mother, as I mentioned, was frantic, and he was not cutting it. “A truck is coming.”
We turn, and there in the middle of UPenn’s quad is a fire truck, my dad’s name on it. Three firemen, again aloof, no sense of urgency, come on out, defibrillator in hand, and walk our way.
Aerial view oriented diagram of exactly what happened to us and where the truck was.
I’m pacing, I’m nervous, they’re making jokes. “You’re having a heart attack because your daughter’s going to college.” “You’re having a heart attack because you saw the bill!” “You’re having a heart attack because the Rangers can’t beat the Flyers this year!” (We are big New York Rangers fans). I was appalled, horrified, and only moderately amused.
Long story short, a day in the hospital to find there was no heart attack, maybe an arrhythmia, eliminated any chance of getting to Hopkins the next day, our last school to visit on spring break. And so we forgot Hopkins for some time.
August in New York isn’t hot, it’s encasing—it’s like walking through syrup every time you step outside. And it was only in this August heat that Johns Hopkins was remembered for the first time since my father’s heart ‘episode.’
Here I am, walking through syrup (not exactly what I meant earlier).
Now when you’re applying to school you have parents and a counselor and teachers and friends and tutors all with opinions, so when the subject of Hopkins was breached with my dear college counselor, she sternly objected to it. “You need three SAT2s and you’ve only taken one and you’ve only studied for a second. You can’t apply there, don’t bother visiting.”
And just like that, my entire future could’ve been different. But I thought this was odd, it wasn’t one of he the schools well known for needing three subject tests, so we called admissions. “Oh no, you don’t need three, three is the maximum! Kids used to submit too many.”
So. Now arose a different problem, a crisis of self-esteem if you will. How can I possibly get into a school where kids are submitting ten SAT2s and I can barely take two? Why bother visiting when I won’t get in?
I have now, at this point in the story, my mother to thank for pushing the visit. We went, we loved it–everyone was nice; they all loved science and goofy anecdotes as much as I did and the general college details (urban setting, mid-size, etc.) were all right! And I decided I would ED to Cornell.
Not what any of you were expecting right? I know, I’m a loose canon. Gotta keep y’all on your toes.
So Cornell. I’d only visited a year before, and decided on a whim, really, and then I was set. I was all Cornell all the time. I wrote my supplement in a day, we visited again, I did research upon research. I was ready to be part of the Big Red.
But Hopkins was always there, in the back of my mind (an unscratchable itch, if you will). I still went to info sessions nearby (you have to show interest!) and at one point I found myself praying I would get denied by Cornell in ED, just so I could apply to JHU regular decision. Maybe a week before November 8th (not November 1st—the common app caused delays, remember?) everything changed at an information session in Norwalk, Connecticut.
Midway through I began reworking my Cornell supp, to see if it could answer Hopkins’ question. I started doing necessary research to add to my essay, I had an essay, and then I turned to my parents and said, “I have a better essay, it’s not for Cornell.”
And we were whisked into action and changing things and changing mentalities and being sure and what a midnight decision this was and was I sure I was so gung-ho on Cornell I’ve only see Hopkins once and we have to get an interview even if it’s after the application deadline then you can see it twice and…
On the morning of December 13th, 2013 (Friday the 13th, thanks, admissions for that extra dose of panic) I received an email from a Hopkins alumnus requesting an interview with me. I showed it to my parents and thought that it must’ve meant I wasn’t in (now I don’t really know why this was the logical conclusion but I thought it was a sign for sure).
Now, I don’t need to describe in full detail getting in and flailing and falling over and crying (I’m a spaz, picture a gangly spaz doing spazzy things while crying) because, well, y’all already know I’m in! There’s no plot twist at the end of this blog post, and you know the ending of the story before it begins.
But what you still don’t know is what I found hiding in my closet that reminded me of how close I came to not being a part of the JHU class of 2018. And I find, out of all the college paraphernalia, the UPenn shirt the most difficult to part with, as it is the beginning of my Hopkins story, the beginning of my Hopkins adventure, and very nearly the end. Ironic that a memento of the first place where the universe conspired against my going to Johns Hopkins, is found as I pack for my future in Baltimore.
The beginning and the end (I did eventually pick up some Hopkins gear as well–go Bluejays!).