January 31, 2019
(Way Back) In My Day…
This year we have decided to get personal with you and share about our experiences applying to college. I get a ton of questions, when I am talking to applicants, about my student experience at USC. Except here’s the thing, I have never been a student at USC (hear the audible gasp.) I know, I know…I just work here. While I can’t speak from personal experience about student life at USC, I can talk to you about applying to college. My colleagues and I in the Office of Admission all have our “college application story” and we love to reminisce about those times. I mean look at what we do for a living…it’s who we are. A tale of how many schools we applied to, our “dream school,” and in my case, how many college admission counselors we stalked (are you still out there Chris Lucier?) Please keep in mind as we roll out this series of “In My Day” posts, that this may be a “do as I say, not as I do” type of story. I regularly counsel students on the college admission process and as the words are coming out of my mouth, I think to myself “this is exactly the opposite of what I actually did.” Hindsight is 20/20, right?
So I guess I’ll start at the very beginning (I’ve heard it’s a very nice place to start.) I’m the youngest of three girls. My sisters are quite a bit older. I was eight years old when my oldest sister went off to college at UC Berkeley. My other sister followed suit three years later to the University of Michigan. By the time I applied to college, I had attended MANY college football games, slept in two sorority houses, purchased quite a few college sweatshirts, and attended two college graduations. My oldest sister was in law school, and the other was working in finance in Manhattan by the time it was my turn to apply to college. I had some big shoes to fill and I knew it. My high school GPA and test scores were the lowest of my sisters, but they were still decent. I had a fairly well rounded college application, and enough gumption to make myself heard. I went to a large private high school in Los Angeles that had excellent college counselors. In fact, my college counselor is still there today! She was (and still is) wonderful and helped me craft a very realistic college list (which I promptly went home and added five more schools to…again…do as I say, not as I do.) I write the next sentence with extreme hesitation, because when I think about it, it makes me cringe…I applied to fourteen colleges. The kicker is that I really only wanted to attend three of them and one was pretty realistic for admission. WHAT WAS I THINKING?! I knew what I wanted in a college, and I was very clear about the experience I was looking for. Let me also add that every school I applied to required one personal statement. I only wrote one essay for my college applications, and no short answer questions. While I definitely applied to too many schools, the process was not as challenging as it probably would be today.
The University of Michigan was my ultimate “dream school.” My academics were within their academic profile range, but they certainly were not at the top. I had decided that if I did not get into Michigan, my second and third choices would be two other large, public, Midwestern universities that were part of the Big Ten conference. Can you sense a trend in what I was looking for? Small college town, far from home, lots of school spirit, wide range of academic options. I ended up getting a small scholarship to my third choice and deferred from my second choice. I still had not heard from Michigan but I was eventually admitted for summer term. I was confused at first since I had never heard of a student starting college during summer, but I decided to give it a shot. It was unconventional but ended up being one of the best decisions I made in this process. My first friend in college, who I met on move-in-day that summer, is still one of my closest friends today (nearly 16 years later.) The only school in California I applied to was UC Berkeley, mostly because my sister and my dad had attended. They denied me twice (I got two deny letters in the mail a few days apart….)
As I reflect now on my experience applying to college, I think about all the mistakes I made (way more than I am willing to admit here.) I also think about the people in my life who helped keep me realistic about my options. My mom and I took a road trip through the North East to look at schools that were “outside the box.” We visited schools neither of my sisters had considered. I remember visiting an Ivy League college and getting that feeling of absolute fit. I LOVED it. I went back to my college counselor’s office and she said, with a completely straight face, “Nope.” There was no way I was getting into that school and she knew it. I needed to hear it and I knew she was right. It saved me a lot of angst.
I hope that with the stories we post this year, we can bring some sanity to a process that sometimes feels very outside the comfort zone. Remember to keep your feet firmly planted on the ground and to take everything one day at a time, one school at a time. Try not to get overwhelmed by the details and deadlines and listen to those who know what they are talking about. Finally, Go Blue, Fight On, and just keep doing what you are doing. You will be fine.
Leave a Reply
Submissions are moderated.