April 12, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

College Process Reflections

Part II

In my previous article, I wrote about the process I went through while applying to college, and gave some tips about how to navigate it. Now I’d like to talk a bit about the emotional side of the story.

One of the key challenges I faced when it came to applying to college was the difficulty of making weighty choices under the stress of a deadline. I decided early on to apply to a college under a binding early admissions plan. But I found myself torn between two strong places, schools that I thought I liked equally, but for different reasons. (I’ll call them College A and College B.) College A had an expansive campus, College B had a better location; College A felt more like a community, but the other had more energy. At this point, I could only choose one—and I had to make the choice before November, so that my application could be finished and all of my credentials could be sent in time.

While I’m certainly all for having choices, at the time I hated having to rush to a decision. Sure, I would have to decide between these colleges anyway, but I wished that I could have more time to think about both. I learned to bite the bullet and to make the decision, knowing that I would always wonder what would have happened had I made the other choice. After all, I couldn’t go wrong with either one; I just had to move forward and choose what seemed best for me at the time! So I applied to College B, sent in my test scores, and went for a stressful interview that I wish I could redo, but my time machine hasn’t arrived just yet. (At least college interviews are reputed to, for the most part, not have much bearing on the process.)

December 10 arrived, and with it, the admissions results for College B’s early decision round. I was nervous about what might happen, but I was also confident. Perhaps a bit too confident. I felt that I had a strong application, that I had put my best foot forward (interview troubles notwithstanding), and that I had a great chance of getting in. Thus, when I got home from school that day, I opened up my laptop, opened up the camera app to record my reaction to opening the decision e-letter, then went to my account on College B’s website to find out that… I had been deferred.

Of course I stopped recording soon after I read that—it would’ve made for depressing watching. (Although I suppose that would be perfect for HBO.)

For me, this was the toughest part of the college app process, emotionally. I thought I was “good enough” to get into this school early, and instead I would have months more of applications and interviews and waiting. At the same time, many of my close friends were receiving offers of early admission to various schools (College B included)—and I was happy for them, but it was hard to celebrate when I was dealing with my own setback. I’m not proud of that, but I couldn’t help it. I spent the next few days in a self-pitying funk, another thing I’m not happy I did, but I needed some time to move on from the deferral. Then, I pushed forward with over 10 more applications, including to College A.

The beginning of 2016 was dominated by college interviews and the stress of waiting for results. I did appreciate getting a lot of experience interviewing, and I was able to showcase far more confidence than I did during my College B interview, which was a mix of nervous stammering and dead time. (In fact, my College A interviewer told me I seemed like “a great fit” for the school!) Even though I ended up getting rejected from some of the schools I interviewed for, I do think it was valuable getting interview experience (particularly for future employment opportunities) and learning how to be confident while speaking to strangers.

Eventually, all of the results came in throughout March. I got a bit confident again, thinking that I just HAD to get accepted to at least one Ivy League. But as the saying goes, man plans and God laughs. I ended up accepted to 10 schools, and rejected from five—including College A and College B, sadly. In fact, in one night I received one acceptance, four rejections, and one waitlist offer (eventually that culminated in a rejection). Full disclosure: the five schools I ended up rejected from were the Ivy League schools I applied to. But, somehow, the rejections didn’t hurt as much as I expected; they were even less painful than the deferral.

Sure, I felt upset that they hadn’t worked out, and sometimes I wonder what would have happened if I had gotten into some of my top choices. But I realized that I couldn’t complain: I had done my best, and I would go wherever God wanted me to go. I did have good choices, and—most importantly—rejections from any college didn’t say anything about me personally. It was a gamble, applying to the schools I did, but there are so many applicants; it didn’t mean anything about who I am as a person or even as an applicant that I didn’t get in. And now I had to move forward and make another weighty choice before the May 1 deadline, of what school to attend, of where my future would take me.

If only I could send you all postcards from Chicago.

By Oren Oppenheim

Oren Oppenheim, 18, is a senior at Ramaz Upper School in Manhattan and lives in Fair Lawn, NJ. This coming fall, he will be attending Yeshivat Orayta in Jerusalem; he will start college at the University of Chicago in 2017. He spends his free time writing and reading, and hopes to become a published novelist and a journalist. You can email him at [email protected].

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