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And that’s why I chose…UConn

On May 27 and 28, I attended a two-day orientation program at the University of Connecticut. I learned the UConn Cheer and fight song. I attended countless advising, and pre-advising, and pre-pre-advising sessions for picking out classes, and then spent two hours selecting them.

Last Wednesday, June 2, I completed the final component of my Senior Project: a presentation to a committee of four people on the experience of working on my comprehensive year-long project with the Mashantucket Pequot Research Center.

On June 4, I went to my Senior Banquet, an annual dinner held for Wheeler seniors to celebrate the fact that they have (almost) graduated. We received letters we had written to ourselves when we were in the seventh grade. Mine was a nine-page confession of all of my seventh grade secrets.

(Note to self: If you ever write another time-capsule letter to yourself, keep it to one page.)

Last Friday, I passed in my final high school assignment.

And this Friday, June 18, I will be graduating from Wheeler High School.

With UConn on the horizon, and the sun nearly set on my days at Wheeler, I feel so far removed from the college process. But I still haven’t told you how I came to the final decision. And so, I happily continue to reflect on it.  

A year ago, I had absolutely no clue where I wanted to go to college. Well, actually, that’s not true. I knew that I wanted to go to Yale, but I only wanted to go because I thought it would sound pretty spiffy. I had done well in high school. (My innocence – and GPA – hadn’t been corrupted by AP Calculus just yet.) But I didn’t quite know where I fit into the whole college equation. My sister goes to UConn, and I had visited her several times. I liked the school; I felt comfortable there. When I did well on my SATs, I knew I might have a chance at some of the top level schools. I said, “Why not?” compiled a list, and gave it a go.

In the fall, I visited Yale and fell in love with the school. The academic and cultural energies were explosive, and I liked the town-within-a-city feel. Not to mention it has some of the best dining halls in the nation. What was not to love? Its place at the top of my list was solidified.

But, that nine percent acceptance rate in the back of my head, I didn’t marry myself to Yale. Instead, I happily played the college field (so to speak), and created a final list of other schools that fit my criteria. I wanted the school I attended to: be academically challenging, have excellent social science and arts departments, serve at least 3,000 undergrads and a sizeable graduate population (going to one of the smallest schools in the state of Connecticut will do that to you), be research-oriented, have a lively social atmosphere, offer a chance of financial aid, house a vibrant campus community, and be located in a city – or, if not, have easy access to a city.

UConn, Tufts, Northeastern, GW, BU, Princeton, Yale, UPenn, and all fit these criteria.

I was pleasantly surprised and extremely humbled by the awesome offers I received from the first five schools. By the time that Ivy Acceptance Day rolled around [Insert some lame joke about rolling/non-rolling admissions HERE], I could have cared less about the final results. The Princeton and Yale rejections weren’t surprising. But the Yale rejection was a little tough to swallow because I had really hoped it would come through in the end. When I found out about the incredible offer from UPenn, though, I was stoked. It was some pretty good buttercream-quality icing to an already delicious college cake. My gratitude deepened when I discovered that some seriously qualified friends weren’t accepted to any Ivies.

Harsh Reality #1: Because so many qualified candidates apply to these top schools – and there are so few spots available – there’s a point where the process becomes a numbers game.

But getting accepted is only half the battle. The other half: Being able to pay.

And that’s Harsh Reality #2.

The college process begins with the question “Where do I want to go to college?”

It then morphs into the question, “Of the college that have offered me acceptance, where do I want to go?”

For some, the answer to that question is the same as the answer to this one: “Of the colleges that have offered me acceptance, where will I get the most bang for my buck?”

 For me, the answer to the first was Yale. The answer to the third was UConn – by a mile. The answer to the second was honestly and equally shared by UConn and UPenn.

And anyone who’s ever played in a One-on-One Rock-Paper-Scissors Tournament knows that the person who wins two matches out of three wins the game. Every time.

And that’s why I chose UConn.  

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