Photo of courtesy of JVibe Magazine.
It’s that time of the year. You know, when seniors are watching their mailboxes like they’re the break-fast spreads as the sun sets on Yom Kippur. We’re talking college decision time. If you’re a senior awaiting what may be the biggest decision of your life thus far, it’s time for a reality check. And if you haven’t begun this crazy process yet, here’s why anyone who thinks there’s only one school for them is sorely mistaken. Three students prove that sometimes dreams are shattered for a reason.
For advice on making college work for college freshmen, be sure to check out So, What’s Next? located at the end of this article.
A Big Ten was missing one important ingredient for Molly.
by Molly Tolsky
When I tell people that I transferred from the University of Michigan, the response is usually, “What in the world are you doing here?” I go to an art school now—Columbia College Chicago—and to some people, it’s hard to imagine why someone attending a prestigious Big Ten university would ever transfer to a more obscure, private art school.
When choosing which college to go to at the end of high school, I considered the usual factors. Like many other students, I wanted my future alma mater to impress people, including my friends, my parents and eventually, those employers reading my résumé.
Top schools like the University of Michigan offer a kind of comfort. For me, going there meant I had achieved something—that all of my hard work (and I mean eight AP courses’ worth of hard work!) had afforded me the opportunity to go to the perfect school.
I found that while U of M may be the perfect school for some, it wasn’t the perfect school for me. Coming from a graduating class of a whopping 1,100 students in Buffalo Grove, a suburb of Chicago, Ill., I thought size wouldn’t be an issue, but in a sea of 25,000 undergrads, I found it hard to find a sense of community.
I have always been on the shy side, and that proved more troubling than ever. I lived in a dormitory, and while I became close friends with my three roommates, it was hard for me to establish a group of friends like I had in high school.
Throughout my two years at Michigan, I had difficulty finding people who shared my interests. I was an English major, yet I didn’t know any other English majors. I would see students in one English class, but because of the size of the department, I would never see them again. My parents suggested that since I came from an area that has a large Jewish population, I should try to make friends with other Jewish students who might have a similar background. It seemed the majority of Jewish students were members of Jewish sororities and fraternities, though, and Greek life was something that held little appeal to me.
Midway through my sophomore year, I found myself often lonely and unhappy, and I knew I needed a change. Telling my parents I wanted to transfer schools was one of the hardest things I ever had to do. I felt I had failed in some way—admitting that I wasn’t fitting in seemed like a sign of weakness. But as I should have known, my parents’ only concern was for my happiness.
I chose Columbia College Chicago because it boasted a great fiction-writing department. One thing I can thank my time at Michigan for is that it opened my eyes to my true passion—creative writing. At Columbia, I found that sense of community I’d been searching for. I walk down the halls and know all of the students. I’m certain that transferring schools was the best decision I ever made. I learned that it’s OK to make mistakes, as long as you’re willing to fix them.
Molly is a writer, student, bookseller, tutor, guitar player and Minesweeper champion. She’s usually pretty exhausted from running around Chicago all day, but there’s nothing like a freezing cold gust of wind to wake her up.
The One and Only
When it seemed like there was only one school out there for Mandy, rejection was the best thing that could have happened.
by Mandy Cohen
Ever since I was little, my dream was to go to University College London (UCL). I should back up and tell you that I did not dream of studying abroad—I am British and grew up in London. UCL is the third top university in London and the best one for the course of study I wanted to pursue—psychology. UCL also has a very large Jewish community, and since I’m an Orthodox Jew, this was a great prospect.
I had my life planned out: I was going to go to UCL, get a degree in psychology, then specialize in counseling psychology and become a counselor.
Everything came crashing down when I didn’t get into UCL. I was so sure I was going to get in that I was distraught when I didn’t. Even though I got into all the other universities I applied to, in my mind UCL was my first and only choice. I didn’t want to take psychology anymore. I thought there was no point in doing it if I wasn’t going to do it at UCL. I was stuck and truly did not know what to do.
A teacher at school suggested that I visit a career website that would tell me which careers would suit me. I found that according to this website, journalism suited me best. Next, I found that there was a degree called “Journalism and Psychology” that I could earn at City University, which in fact has the best journalism department in London.
I was slightly apprehensive. I mean, I had only ever written one article before, which of course was for JVibe.com, and I just wasn’t sure whether I was good enough and whether or not I would enjoy the subject. I decided to just apply and hope for the best. I had to write several articles in order for them to tell whether I was suitable for the course. I really enjoyed interviewing people and writing the articles. It was a very happy day when I was accepted.
I started at City University in September, and I absolutely love it. “Journalism and Psychology” is great—I get the best out of both subjects. And I have grown to really love journalism in the process.
There is a saying in Judaism: “This, too, is for good,” meaning that everything happens for the best. I can see how this is true in my case. Not getting into UCL for psychology really did work out. Had I gotten in, I wouldn’t have gone to City University for journalism and would have lost out on what is now a big part of my life.
My advice to anyone who hasn’t gotten into the college of their choice is to try to make the best out of their situation. Even though you may be feeling really down and confused as to what to do next, it may be a blessing that you didn’t get in. I’m living proof that everything works out in the end.
Mandy is 18 and a member of the JVibe Teen Advisory Board. She is at university studying journalism and psychology. She loves fashion, traveling, learning new languages and going to the movies.
You’ve Gotta Be Kidding
Crushed by rejection, Neil opted for another choice.
by Neil Dibiase
To be honest, I thought my parents were kidding. I was out of the country when my college acceptance letters—or, as I was soon to find out, rejection letters—were set to arrive. I had given my family very careful instructions that they were to open them with me on the phone and read the letters aloud. When my mother’s voice, calm and collected, said the words “We regret to inform you…” as she read the letter from my first-choice school, I waited for her to laugh and say, “Just kidding, sweetie.” It never happened.
I had done everything right; visited a ton of schools early in my junior year, identified those I thought suited me well, then picked one that was the school. It was a small, liberal-arts college outside of Philadelphia—and it was perfect. I visited more than once, interviewed on campus, emailed the admissions officer frequently with questions and updates, spent a night in the dorms with a student and then applied for early decision.
But none of that mattered as I sat in my hotel room wondering, just a tad dramatically, if I had a future. After being deferred in the early decision round, I was now facing my worst nightmare: full-out rejection, plain and simple.
I was crushed, to say the least. But upon my return to the U.S., with the deadline for enrollment looming, I went on a trip to visit the other schools that had offered me a spot in the entering class. After narrowing it down to two schools, I finally picked Tufts University, a slightly larger liberal-arts school outside of Boston.
It was the best decision I have ever made. Looking back on my college-selection process, I now realize that I was, as one would expect, looking for the familiar—schools similar to my suburban prep school. Though I do not blame myself, I now realize I was enticed by schools that were not challenging, but comfortable. The reality is, I’ve changed a lot during my first two-and-a-half years of college, and I realize now that I needed an institution that would support and encourage that growth.
Having gone to a high school with a large Jewish population, I always assumed there would be a strong, supportive community at any school I chose. This is not the case. Tufts has one of the best Jewish communities in the nation, and I’m reminded of that each day; in my friends, programs I attend and the general support of the Jewish community.
You will change and grow during your time in college, and that’s a good thing. You may doubt me, but a few years from now, when you have changed your major three times and become involved in things you never thought you would, remember this. At the end of the day, there will be 10 people at any college or university in America who you will wonder how you lived without. The college-admissions process is stressful, but the college experience, even if it’s in a different place than you thought, will make it all worthwhile.
Neil is a junior at Tufts University, majoring in history (sometimes). He is president of the student body and is active in Hillel, intramural soccer, basketball and tennis, as well as Model United Nations. After graduation, Neil hopes to live in the Middle East, analyzing security policy before returning to the States for law school.
For advice on making college work for college freshmen, be sure to check out Chai Wire:So, What’s Next?
This article is reprinted with permission from JVibe Magazine.