The Crooked Path
Over four hundred days have passed since I plunged myself into life’s most suffocating contractual agreement: early decision.
Now, I’m a year-and-a-half wiser, eighty-two weeks more mature, and still just as short as I sit here typing away, free as ever. My hands and feet have been untied and I exude sighs of relief as I think back to when I chained myself to a commitment I wasn’t ready to make. Now, though, I am here. I am free, and I am ready to begin anew.
My decision to apply ED to New York University was derived from fear, doubt and a tremendous lack of confidence. I never believed I would be accepted if I applied regular decision. When I stumbled through the archway downtown in Washington Square Park on my routine college visit, I felt nothing more than complacency. Like many college-hopefuls, I had aspirations of attending some of the finest institutions in the country and, like most of my peers, I underestimated my character and ability. I decided not to apply to any of them.
Grades, recommendations, community service, leadership, sports, APs, everything was right there. I was confident in every single aspect of my application—everything but my SATs. Frantic googling ensued. “Duke University, SATs.” “Amherst College, SATs.” The average results: “750 Math/750 Critical Reading.” Immediately I thought I’d never have a chance, and dreams that seemed attainable fell heavily to the rocky ground, shattering so much so that they could not be pieced back together.
I had let a single number steal all of my hope, and rob me of everything I had worked for. I let single number define who I was. I let it shadow my character and everything that I had to offer, everything. A number.
December 15th came and I happily received news that I had been admitted to New York University’s Class of 2016. I roamed the halls of my high school the next day and accepted the warm congratulatory remarks as I kept trying to convince myself that I had made the right decision. For the next eight months I searched for reassurance through others. I was never quite able to find it, as I was so unsure myself.
As senior year continued, I became increasingly attached to the tight-knit community that had served as my home for the past eighteen years of my life. I began to cherish the familial environment that surrounded me. My fear of leaving my haven of comfort grew, and my friends and family assured me that “everything happens for a reason.” I grew increasingly worried.
When I first arrived in the Village, I remained levelheaded as to give myself a fair chance to enjoy school. However, as time went on, it was strangely comforting to realize the harshly independent concrete world just wasn’t for me. As someone who has always been indecisive by nature, I was relieved to finally be certain. I was positive, without a doubt, that this was simply not the right home for me.
At NYU, it seemed you couldn’t exist as an athlete and theater-goer at the same time. You couldn’t wear sweatpants to class and you couldn’t escape the pressure on a social and academic level. Ironically, I did not feel accepted at NYU. Not everyone must enjoy the big game and the ballet, but I believe the groups should peacefully coexist. I envision a campus on which students pass each other en route to class, one in sweats and one in a dress, each still happy to acknowledge the other’s differences.
This lack of diversity seemed to invade my academic life as well. In applying directly to NYU’s Liberal Studies Program, I locked myself into a two-year venture of studies that seemed the perfect fit for a pre-law track. In time, I realized that I was simply uninterested in these artistic, philosophic and vaguely historic classes I thought I’d love. I also learned that the program’s two core courses were anything but diverse. In fact, we were often inadvertently given the same works to read in both classes.
Additionally, the program’s confinements left no room for electives. Suddenly, I began aching to find the derivative of a complex function, and longed to revisit my AP Chemistry days of mole-to-mole ratios. I wanted to grow, and I realized that experiencing subjects across all borders was imperative before finally choosing a major. Since I could not transfer out of the program, my choices were limited. I needed a situation in which I could experience varied courses, and I feared completing my freshman year without either a math or science might prove detrimental.
Leaving Greenwich Village was a difficult decision. Regardless of my complaints, I was fortunate to have found a tremendous family in the NYU Varsity Women’s Basketball team, and walking away mid-season wasn’t easy. I am, however, incredibly grateful for my time spent at NYU. Even in an institution that wasn’t my “glass slipper,” I found a way to adapt and integrate into a new world, and to appreciate everything it had to offer.
I made the best decision possible, and enrolled in my local community college for the spring semester. I may not have necessarily wanted to make that move, but I was able to continue a language, find derivatives and calculate moles all at the same time—something I could not have done had I remained at NYU. Not to mention, I was also doing all of these things for thirty thousand dollars less.
It’s easy to say that it all will work out, but when you have no choice but to apply to more than twenty schools as a transfer student, things get a bit tricky. Yes, twenty schools. Silly? I don’t think so—I played the odds. Many schools have high retention rates, which means they only have room for a handful of transfers. Schools that once accepted twenty percent of students during the first round of admissions now only take five percent, and schools that took thirty percent now take three. I was determined that I would not return community college in the fall. While it was a wonderful option to have, I knew I had to fight to end up at my next four-year institution, and what a fight it was.
Twenty schools, hundreds of envelopes, endless phone calls and nearly a thousand forms and papers copied and sent via postal mail around the country. I returned to my high school to have papers signed, met with my old Literature teacher for help with my new Common Application essay, ran back downtown to NYU drop off papers and contacted old teachers for recommendations. I spent the duration of the semester with a headache derived from fear that all of my hard work was going to be in vain. I was desperate, scared and in constant fear.
When the rejections started piling up, you can say I was a bit more than bummed. I began to feel that by “signing my life away” to early decision some four hundred days ago, I had forever ruined an experience I felt I deserved to have.
Finally, this endless cycle had come to a close, and I was able to say, “Yes, it was all worth it.” Later that month, I was fortunate enough to receive more good news from schools that had sat high atop that proverbial mountain in my head all throughout high school. One of those schools was Georgetown University, which I will officially be attending this fall.
Sure, you could say that my first year of college was atypical. You could also say I should have given myself a fair shot out of high school, or that my freshman year lacked the fun and adventure that seems to be typical. You could say all of those things if you wanted to, and maybe you’d be right.
I don’t see my “early decision plunge” as the wrong route. Rather, I see it as a decision that led to a much-needed experience. I do not at all regret my time at NYU; I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have had the opportunity to indulge in a whole new world that helped shed light on myself and my values. I learned to cherish the tremendous family I had in the community that was always right before me, and I felt the intensity of my relationships with teachers, friends and coaches grow fervently. I am grateful for my time spent at NYU, and have taken much knowledge with me from Washington Square Park back across the George Washington Bridge. I now know where I’m supposed to be, and you too will wind up where you’re supposed to be—even if it takes you a little trip downtown to figure it out.