By Roger Li
As my tumultuous college admissions process drew to a close, I felt a profound sense of relief. I had gotten rejected from one of my top choice schools, but I still could choose from several other schools that I had grown to love.
Immediately, I ruled out Vassar, UCLA, UC Davis and NYU. Vassar’s student body was far too East Coast preppy for me. I wasn’t keen on spending four years in Los Angeles or Davis. NYU had the overwhelming size of Berkeley along with the astronomical price of a private university.
By process of elimination, I was left with Amherst, Swarthmore, Berkeley and the University of Pennsylvania. I was almost positive that I would be attending Penn. Its focus on interdisciplinary learning, the resources of Wharton (its business school), and its reputation as the “social Ivy” were all reasons that pushed me toward Penn.
Amherst was too isolated and I didn’t want to deal with the consistent budget cuts at Berkeley. Swarthmore’s student body seemed too “alternative.” But because Swarthmore was a 20-minute train ride from Penn, I decided to visit both schools on a college visit during Spring Break.
Throughout my visit, I felt magnetism toward Swarthmore that I didn’t feel toward Penn.
Swarthmore had an idyllic campus, close to the city, yet still enclosed in a bubble of academia. For a variety of reasons, however, I still choose Penn despite my apprehensions.
During these few weeks, I entirely forgot about Columbia. I wrote a ballsy waitlist letter, which mentioned the Real Housewives of New York City, the picturesque beaches of Colombia and my obsession with gourmet food. Because few students get off the waitlist, I wasn’t afraid to write a letter that was unabashedly “me.”
As fate would have it, two weeks after I committed to Penn, I received an acceptance to Columbia. Although I was elated, I only had 10 days to make a decision. My apprehensions about Penn resurfaced; I took a risk and chose the school that was never one of my top choices. I knew in my gut that I was making the right decision.
Once I paid my deposit, I felt like everything had finally fallen into place. I was officially going to college!
Editor's Note: Roger is a 2011 La Jolla High graduate who will be heading to college soon.