As it’s that time of year, I’ve decided to write a post for all the high school seniors out there who pledged unflinchingly to attend a certain institution upon acceptance in the increasingly-popular early decision round of college admissions. The following is only my personal experience and opinion, but nonetheless, I think it might be a source of comfort to many of you early decision applicants out there.
This time last year, I was anxiously awaiting my early decision results from Brown, the school I most wanted to attend at the time. I was deferred, which I had been expecting anyhow, but I’d also been accepted to Northeastern under their non-binding early action application plan. My main hope for those who are or might be deferred to the regular decision pool is that you have another school that you know you’ll be able to attend no matter what, because Northeastern’s acceptance was a huge relief to me. Yes, I was disappointed (albeit not too surprised) when I was deferred from Brown, but I knew that I had somewhere to go, and that made it sting a little less.
I think that deferral, and eventual rejection, was one of the best things that could have happened to me. And maybe it seems like I’m saying that because I’m bitter about not getting into my first choice, but I don’t think that’s the case. For those who don’t know, I applied to Cornell on somewhat of a whim. At the time that I was working on my Brown application, I hadn’t even considered Cornell. It wasn’t until about the time that I turned in the early decision application that I added Cornell to my list of schools to apply to should I be deferred or rejected in the early round. I can’t even say what made me apply other than a “Why not?” mentality. Oddly enough, when I looked back at my applications, I found that my Cornell one was the most thoughtful, even though I knew relatively little about the school. Unlike most of the other schools I applied to, I hadn’t visited Cornell–in fact, I didn’t visit until a few weeks after I was accepted.
So here’s the thing: I probably would’ve been happy at Brown. I don’t doubt that I could’ve thrived there. But getting deferred forced me to look closely at my other options, and I’m incredibly thankful that I did, because I absolutely love Cornell. It also just so happens that I landed myself in one of the best English departments in the country, which I didn’t even know until a few weeks ago. If I’d known that, maybe my admissions approach would have been different. Not getting into Brown gave me time to picture myself somewhere else, and when I started really looking at Cornell, Northeastern, and some of my other options, I realized that Brown wasn’t necessarily my one and only dream school. I never had the elusive “moment” that I’ve heard so much about: when you step onto campus and just know that you belong. In fact, I didn’t even have that moment when I visited Cornell. It didn’t come until August, and now I look around everyday and love that I’m here.
(Side note: that “moment” definitely does not exist for everyone, but it doesn’t mean that you won’t find your ideal school.)
Maybe it’s a cliche to say that when one door closes, another opens, but it’s so, so true. Not getting into the school I thought I wanted to go to led me to the school I was meant to attend. I don’t know if I really believe in fate, but I do believe that everything happens for a reason. I think I was supposed to end up here, even though I never would’ve guessed it a year ago.
If you’re feeling down about early decision, or just about not knowing where you’ll be in a year, read here: Things will work themselves out. It might not be in the way you’d anticipated, but everything will fall into place in one way or another. It sucks not knowing what your future will look like, but soon enough you’ll be past that uncertainty and, more than likely, you’ll be somewhere and you won’t be able to imagine your life any other way. You’ll be okay. In fact, you might come out of it all in better shape than before. No matter what your early decision might look like, it could turn out to be the best thing for you.