These past few weeks have been more grueling and difficult than I ever could’ve imagined. For many high school seniors, the months of March and April are a fairly exciting and nerve-wracking time since most college decisions come out in the second half of March, giving everyone about a month between acceptances and matriculation deadlines (usually May 1). But for me, the whole month of April came down to deciding between two colleges I had completely fallen in love with, a most difficult choice.
Over the past few years, I’ve written about some of the colleges I had been dreaming about—Columbia, Harvard, Georgetown, and the University of Texas at Austin, to name the major ones. I was guaranteed acceptance into UT Austin since Texas law requires them to provide automatic admission for Texas students in the top 8% of their high school class, but in February I was accepted into two honors programs I really wanted to be a part of: Plan II honors, an interdisciplinary liberal arts program, and Health Science Scholars, a departmental honors program in the College of Natural Sciences.
For about a solid month or so, I really thought I was going to UT. I was excited about the thought of living in Austin, getting to do research in my freshman year as part of Health Science Scholars, and having the opportunity to intern at the Texas Capitol (they only accept Plan II students) and do actual policy work (as my state representative explained). But then things changed in mid-March, when I got a letter from Brown University saying I can expect to be admitted on March 31, the day that all Ivy League acceptances come out.
Needless to say, I got incredibly excited about the thought of going to Brown. Brown had an Open Curriculum, which meant that I wouldn’t have any general education requirements and would thus have way more space to explore different fields of study. It was in Providence, Rhode Island, which fit my dream of being at an East Coast (read, Ivy League) school, and Providence itself is charming, friendly, and beautiful. And unlike the rest of the Ivy League, it’s quite laid-back and it doesn’t have the same pretentious quality around it, despite being one of the best schools in the entire country. But then, over Easter break, I got the most shocking and unexpected news.
I got into Stanford.
Yes, that Stanford. The one that’s in (or technically, right next to) Palo Alto, California. The only West Coast school I applied to (and on a whim, too!). The school with such a ridiculously low admissions rate (4.7%) that the New York Times even wrote a satirical piece about it accepting no one this year. It was a school I had honestly never even considered—it didn’t fit into my lifelong plan of going to school in the Northeast at all, it was literally on the wrong side of the country!
By the next week, I got my official acceptance to Brown and got waitlisted at Columbia and Harvard, although I decided to take myself off both wait lists. For about two weeks, I went back and forth between whether I wanted to go to Brown or Stanford, and I finally started to lean Stanford… up until I visited Brown for A Day on College Hill (ADOCH), their admitted students week.
Aside from missing school for about four days—one day to travel to and see Providence, and the other three days to spend exploring Brown—I met some of the most amazing and interesting people, found out so much about the Brown curriculum that I completely loved and adored, and got to feel like a college student for a few days… sitting in on classes, finding cool spots on campus, and even going to common student destinations in Providence.
After not expecting to really love Brown and originally thinking I’d be able to put in my deposit to Stanford as soon as I got back to Dallas, my amazing experience at ADOCH made it that much harder to actually pick a college. And Brown’s decision to match Stanford’s (incredibly generous) financial aid offer made it financially possible to even go!
By the next weekend, I was off to Palo Alto for Stanford’s Admit Weekend. I ended up suffering from the worst allergies imaginable which put me in an awful mood, and the much more low-key way Stanford handled Admit Weekend was a stark contrast to the more glamorous experience of ADOCH at Brown. It also didn’t help that Stanford is huge, so I got helplessly lost more than a few times. After the first 24 hours of being on campus, I very honestly thought I was going to go to Brown.
As you can tell by the title of this post, I did ultimately choose Stanford. So what was the tipping point? It was actually my last night at Stanford, and before going to one of the late-night activities with some other ProFros (Stanford lingo for “prospective freshmen”) staying in the same dorm as me, my allergies seemed to keep getting worse and worse and worse. Most dorms have a PHE, or Peer Health Educator, a junior or senior who’s equipped with over-the-counter medicines and ways to help people deal with physical and mental health issues. She stopped everything she was doing to get me Benadryl and hot tea to make me feel better so I could go out for the night. By the time I came back to my dorm around midnight, I found my RoHo (“room host,” the person whose dorm room I stayed in) with another junior who also lived in the dorm building.
Maybe it was a combination of being up late and jet-lagged, but I started talking to them about how I didn’t know whether I wanted to attend Brown or Stanford and how both schools just seemed so friendly and welcoming and I could see myself at both places. At most schools, it would be anathema to openly consider not going there—especially during their Admit Weekend no less!—so it was a pleasant surprise to have them be completely understanding. One of them mentioned that they had been deciding between Princeton and Stanford, and even though her pro-con list leaned Princeton, she decided to trust her gut instincts and go to Stanford, and she hasn’t regretted that decision ever since.
Fast forward to May 2, the decision deadline date for both Brown and Stanford. On this final day to decide, I realized I had a few competing feelings. My head knew that both schools are academically equal, especially in the areas I wanted to study (public health/health policy). My heart desperately wanted to go to Brown—it wanted the brown- and red-brick buildings, the cool Providence air, and the Ivy League college experience I had dreamed about for so so long. Yet, I couldn’t shake this feeling in my gut that Stanford was the place I should go to, even though I didn’t like Stanford at first. My gut told me to trust the kindness and understanding and helpfulness of the upperclassmen I met at Stanford… and to go ahead and throw out that “ten-year plan” I had for my future.
I ended up choosing Stanford just hours before midnight, and I haven’t regretted it for even a moment. My biggest fear—that I would immediately regret picking Stanford over Brown as soon as it became final—was never realized, and I’ve only felt excitement about how I’m going to be a Stanford student this fall!
At the end of the day, I decided to trust my gut and to walk through a door that I never expected would open. Brown University, Providence, and the students I met at ADOCH (most of whom have happily enrolled at Brown already!) will always hold a special place in my heart—and who knows, maybe I’ll end up there sometime in my future for graduate/medical school! But right now, I just couldn’t be happier about being a part of the Stanford Class of 2020.
Here’s to starting the next chapter!