As senior Sydney Jackson talks about her recent acceptance into Franklin and Marshall College in Lan caster, Penn., she can’t help but smile.
And who can blame her? She was just accepted Early Decision to the college she “fell in love with.”
In fact, Jackson was so anxious to know whether she’d been accepted that the promised release date wasn’t early enough. She said she checked her email at got to school, had free period, got home and went to bed.
Ironically, the one day that Jackson didn’t check her email—the Friday before the set day—was the day her acceptance was emailed early. The next day her letter arrived in the mail.
“I wasn’t all built up with nerves the way I probably would have been on Monday,” said Jackson, who opened the letter with her parents. “But I was still really ecstatic. We couldn’t talk we were so excited.
“Both my parents hugged me, and then they pulled out an F&M blanket they had bought me. I wrapped myself up in it and started jumping up and down.”
According to Jackson, her parents said they’d known she would get in but hadn’t wanted to jinx it by telling her. In fact, when they gave Jackson her blanket, they also pulled out a hat and shirt for themselves.
Jackson’s next move was to email her teachers and text her friends, all of whom replied with congratulations ranging from “Yahoo! Yahoo!” (from college counselor Brooke Wells) to “Congratulations, Sydney! You will have such a relaxed, nice holiday now!” (from teacher Patricia Fels).
Fels’s message came true soon enough, as Jackson spent her vacation breaking in her new turbo VW Bug instead of working on college essays like the majority of her peers.
But Jackson’s stress-free break wasn’t unique.
Seniors David Myers, Garrett Kaighn and Kevin Rossell were also accepted to their first-choice schools Early Decision (ED).
Myers, who was accepted Early Action to University of San Francisco in late December and ED to Santa Clara University on Dec. 16, was elated when he was accepted to Santa Clara.
“I went weak at the knees, and then I ran across the quad to the Cave and immediately called my mother,” Myers said. “Her response was simply screaming.”
For Myers, though, the feeling was more relief.
“My family wanted to celebrate much more than I did,” he said.
“I just wanted the night in—I was coming down from the stress of having to work on the applications. So we came home, bought a cake and watched a movie together.”
When Kaighn found out he was accepted ED to Columbia University in New York City on Dec. 12, he was at Target on the way home from school.
“I told my dad when I walked in the door, and he just ran up to me and hugged me,” Kaighn said.
Two days later, Kaighn and his overjoyed parents celebrated at Bandera.
Kaighn was especially looking forward to telling his dad’s side of the family.
“My family comes from New York, so all of the adults were excited,” Kaighn said. “Not only was I going to a great school, but it also happened to be in New York.
“My great aunt, who still has a New York accent, talked to me for hours about our family in the city and gave me a little guidebook as a Christmas present.”
But, of course, the lack of future college essays was also a highlight.
“Getting in was the difference between having to write 10-12 more essays and being able to do absolutely nothing for two weeks and actually relax for the first time in the semester,” Kaighn said.
Rossell, who was accepted to Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, was also happy he didn’t have to work on applications over break.
“I had had to turn in the UC and USC applications,” he said. “But I hadn’t started any others.
“I celebrated by not writing more essays.”
Aside from not having to work on applications over break, all the seniors accepted ED were happy to know where they were going before the Regular Decision group.
However, Myers admitted he has also noticed a significant lack of motivation in school due to his acceptance.
“At this point, all I have to do is pass my classes, rather than do as well as possible in order to impress the admissions committee,” Myers said.
Knowing one’s future ahead of time does come at a cost. ED is binding, meaning that if a student is accepted, he or she is required to attend.
That’s why college counselor Jane Bauman stresses that ED should be used for only a student’s top-choice school.
“(Applying early) is complicated, and it depends on a lot of factors,” Bauman said. “Once you’ve submitted (the agreement), it can’t be changed.”
But Jackson, Myers, Kaighn and Rossell don’t want anything to change at this point.
When senior Connor Martin got the email from Williams College on Dec. 12, he was sitting in the parking lot of Temple Coffee near school.
The news wasn’t good; Martin had been deferred.
“It was a slow, sinking feeling,” Martin said. “I basically stared at the intersection for 10 minutes in silence.”
When he surfaced from his trance, he sent college counsel or Jane Bauman and teacher Patricia Fels an email and texted some friends to share the news.
As Martin drove home, he kept receiving texts asking whether he had been accepted, listening as Siri’s voice read aloud his friends’ queries and consolations.
“I burst out in tears,” Martin said. “Siri asked me if I wanted to respond. I sobbed ‘no.’ I had to repeat because Siri couldn’t understand me.”
It was then that Martin realized he had a lot of work to do.
Instead of spending holiday time with family visitors, he including Middlebury, Pomona, Amherst and Bowdoin.
“My sister and I would have gone out to the movies and shopping,” Martin said. “I would have gone to the Bay Area to visit my dad.”
And Martin wasn’t the only one scrambling to write applica tion essays as the Jan. 1 deadline approached.
Senior Ryan Ho was also deferred from his ED school, Uni versity of Pennsylvania, though his reaction was less emotional than Martin’s.
“At first when I saw the deferral letter, I felt this sudden defeat,” said Ho, who applied to UPenn’s seven-year Bio-Dental Program.
“It was like, ‘Oh, crap!’ You feel bad for one or two days, but you get over it.”
Like Martin, Ho spent most of his break working on ap plications to schools like Rice University, Tufts University and Washington University in St. Louis. This task was made even worse because Ho was in Taiwan visiting his parents for the first time since August.
“I had not started on any of my other school’s supplements because I was secretly wishing I’d get into UPenn,” Ho said.
Senior Cissy Shi said she had also been procrastinating on Regular Decision applications before hearing from her Early Action and ED schools.
“I was planning on traveling with my mom since she came here from China to visit me for the first time since the summer,” Shi said. “Instead I was stuck at home writing my supplements.”
Nonetheless, Shi is keeping an open mind about her chances at the University of Chicago and the other schools where she is applying Regular Decision.
“Being denied by Columbia really provides me with more options,” Shi said. “I am now applying to a huge variety of other schools that I also like very much based on the research I did after I wasn’t accepted.”
Senior Grant Quattlebaum, whose ED application was rejected by Harvey Mudd, agrees.
“Being denied helped me prepare for doing more college applications,” Quattlebaum said. “It was nice to get either an acceptance or a rejection out of the way so I could focus on other things.”
Martin, Ho, Shi and Quattlebaum all say that they’re glad they applied early.
“If I had applied to a for-sure school Early Decision and gotten in, then I would have always wondered if I could have gotten into a school that is more selective,” Martin said.
“It’s just a bummer that I didn’t get in.”
Shi agrees. “I feel it’s worth it to apply to my dream school,” she said.
For Ho, the lessened wait time was what made Early Decision worth it.
“I was counting down the days to the decision date and was constantly checking the admission portal,” Ho said. “I can’t imagine not hearing anything at all until the spring!”