Senior Aishwarya Nadgauda poses with her business professor while accepting her certificate of completion for the University of Pennsylvania’s Management and Technology Summer Institute.

EARLY DECISION ROUNDTABLE: Admitted seniors discuss finding dream schools, being done with college essays

On Dec. 16, the Octagon sat down with members of the class of 2015 (Emma Williams, Aishwarya Nadgauda, Melissa Vazquez and Caroline Mehta)  who applied early decision. Early decision is a binding application to a college. If a student is accepted, they must go to that school. Williams (Cornell University), Nadgauda (University of Pennsylvania), and Vazquez (Washington University in St. Louis) had already been accepted at the time of the discussion.  Three days later, Mehta was accepted to George Washington University.

Q: You all applied early decision to your respective colleges. How did you know that school was the right fit for you?

Melissa Vazquez: Washington University in St. Louis filled everything on my checklist. I wanted some place new that I could explore. It had to be in a medium-sized city, a good distance from home and they had the PNP (a major that combines philosophy, neuroscience, and psychology)

I sat in on a couple of classes, including a Psychology 101 class. After every slide in his slide show, the professor would stop and ask if anyone had questions, and he would say “Good question!” and then answer it.

Washington University also only has one general education requirement, which is something that I liked about the school.

Aishwarya Nadgauda: Really? I liked the general education requirements at Columbia! Until I saw University of Pennsylvania, my first choice was Columbia because of their core curriculum.

Vazquez: I actually didn’t even look at what their core curriculum is. I just really didn’t like them telling me what classes I had to take, but maybe they are cool.

Washington University wasn’t my first choice until this year actually. Before that, I didn’t know where I wanted to go, but I was going to apply early action to Yale. My dad went to Yale and he didn’t have a good time there, but he thought that I would like it there.

Emma Williams: That’s the exact opposite from me. I don’t want to say he was unsupportive, but my dad kept asking, “Are you sure you want to apply early to Cornell?”

Caroline Mehta: My parents also asked, “Have you considered Vanderbilt, or Johns Hopkins?” “Are you sure you want to go to GW?” But I just knew that I would fit in at George Washington.

Q: What was it like being months ahead of your friends in terms of the getting-things-together process?

Williams: Amazing. It’s the best feeling ever. I have nothing left to do with college applications, and everyone else is freaking out.

Nadgauda: I finished all my supplementary essays before I heard back from Penn, so now I have 18 superfluous supplements. But I would have been done regardless of whether I got in or not, which is nice.

Vazquez: I didn’t do anything, so I would have been screwed if I didn’t get into Washington University.

Mehta: I’m really hoping that I don’t have to do all these applications. I was supposed to find out on Monday, but that got postponed until the day after tomorrow. If I don’t find out by Friday, then I’m going to have to start on all the applications. If I do get in, then that will be a waste of my time. But if I get rejected, then I have no time to finish them, so it’s incredibly stressful.

Williams: I remember last year whenever we had the M&M Man, we would have that one time when all the acceptances would come in, and people would have cups because of all the candy that they got. I was thinking that if I get in, I will only have one little handful, and that’s so sad. I also wanted to find out where else I could get in, and be like, “Yeah, I got into Harvard,” even though I wouldn’t.

Nadgauda: My dad was hoping I would get deferred so I could find out where else I would have gotten in. Last year they deferred three people from my program (a combined major in management and technology) but then accepted all of them into it. He was like “Get the best of both worlds. Find out where else you can get in and then get in.”

Vazquez: I have no idea how anyone else is getting anything done. I’ve been super busy with school, so I’m just confused at how anyone else is getting anything done application-wise.

Q: Did any of you use College Confidential? I know some senior friends are fervent about the site.

Nadgauda: I didn’t go on College Confidential until the night before the results came out. The University of Pennsylvania thread is constantly being added to. There was one person who said, “I found a comma error in one of my supplements. This is basically grounds for rejection.” Then there were these moms saying, “My son applied and got in with errors. It’s not the end of the world.”

Williams: They are so depressing on the Cornell thread. After you get your decision, people go on the site and post their stats and whether they got in or rejected or deferred. The Cornell rejection people are really mean. They all said, “You guys suck, because you got into Cornell and you guys took my spot.” I was thinking, “Come on, don’t say that!” Then there were the deferred kids.

Nadgauda: Oh, the deferred kids are the worst!

Williams: I know. They were like, “I hope you didn’t get your financial aid package, so that I can have your spot in regular decision.”

I didn’t get onto the site until the week before the decisions came out because I knew that I would be addicted to it.

Vazquez: Well, (English teacher Patricia) Fels emailed me and said that the results for Washington University had arrived. It’s 4 p.m., so I go on this frantic search to find out what my decision is, and the Washington University portal isn’t working and says it is undergoing maintenance. I called Emma, Aishwarya and Caroline to ask them how to check out your decision.

By the way, none of you answered.

Nadgauda: Sorry.

Vazquez: I hadn’t received a single Washington University email. I discovered that all my Washington University emails for the past several months (had gone to a separate inbox) on my personal email account.

There was an email that said, “Your letter has been mailed, but to find out the immediate results, check the portal.”  The portal wasn’t working, so I called the admissions office, but because St. Louis is a couple hours ahead, they were already done with their workday, so no one was manning the phones.

I spent the whole night refreshing the portal on my computer, and Fels sent me the College Confidential link, where she discovered that the results had been sent out, so I spent all night looking at those.

Everyone (on College Confidential) was posting their fantastic stats: “36 on the ACT, 2400 on the SAT, 4.0 GPA, denied.”

Nadgauda: All the denied people have ridiculously high statistics on College Confidential. Nobody with bad scores posts on College Confidential. They’re all presidents of every club that ever existed, but they get rejected.

Mehta: You guys are giving me major anxiety now because I don’t find out for two days.

Vazquez: You can look on College Confidential.

Williams: No, don’t do it! You’ll get  addicted.

Vazquez: Wait, let me finish! When I called Washington University, they told me that the portal should be up sometime early afternoon their time. I’m thinking maybe 3 p.m., latest. The portal wasn’t working till 6 p.m.! I got my physical letter first.

Nadgauda: You sent me a picture of your letter, and you were so mad. The portal things are dumb. When I got mine, I couldn’t open it on the school WiFi. I couldn’t read the rest of it. I was super confused, and it was really frustrating. Fels said it was good news, but I wanted to see the proof.

Vazquez: Wait, let me finish my story, guys! My dad texted me and said that he got the letter in the mail and asked if he wanted me to open it, and I said, “No, you can’t open my letter. I need to open my letter, obviously.”

I had piano lessons that day as well, so I wanted to wait until after to open the letter, but I sent pictures of it to all my friends. I had been waiting for over 24 hours, and I knew I was in because the package was large.

Q: Is there anything about early decision that you dislike?

Vazquez: In order to make the huge decision about whether to apply early decision, I wanted to stay a night at Washington University. But you can’t stay a night at Washington University until you have applied because they don’t want to host a bunch of people. But because I was applying early decision, if I got in and stayed and I didn’t like it, there was nothing I could do about it. I ended up staying with a stranger that I discovered through one of my college counselor’s former clients.

Nadgauda: I didn’t have as many doubts because I spent three weeks the previous summer at University of Pennsylvania doing a summer program.

Mehta: I think it helps if you know someone who goes to that school or you go to a program at that school. I think you really have to go to that school before you know whether or not you want to apply. I visited some schools that I was going to apply early to, but I am really glad that I visited, because after my visit I didn’t want to go there at all.

Vanderbilt seemed perfect on paper, but when I visited, it didn’t give me the right feeling.

Williams: I didn’t have any questions about whether Cornell was the right choice. I’ve visited the campus so many times (Williams’s father is a Cornell alumnus) that there was never a question about if I liked it or not. The worst part was that everyone knew that I loved Cornell, everyone knew I was applying early decision and everyone said that I would get in. Then I thought, “What if I don’t get in?” It would be really awkward and depressing.

Vazquez: I didn’t stay a night anywhere else, so I don’t know whether or not I could like another school (as much as) I like Washington University. I don’t have any problems with it because the program is unique, but I do have reservations about being in the Midwest.

Williams: Welcome to the Bible Belt!

Q: When and how exactly did you find out if you got in?  

Nadgauda: I applied to University of the Pacific early action, and the first thing that their portal says is “Congratulations!” But with the University of Pennsylvania portal there was a video that wouldn’t load.  Underneath that there were three full pages of text. I’m thinking, I must be deferred or rejected, and at the very end of the page it says, “You have been accepted to UPenn.”

I wasn’t entirely sure, so I said, “I got in,” quietly, but I was still looking for exclamation points. At the very bottom there was a letter attached which starts out with “Congratulations, you have been accepted,” and that’s when it all sunk in.

(But) Emma’s reaction was priceless. Emma, tell everyone.

Williams: I Facetimed with Aishwarya because my mother had a meeting and school was cancelled because of the flood. I was very lonely. I was listening to the Angry Playlist on Spotify, rocking out to “Survivor” by Destiny’s Child. I called Aishwarya five minutes before the decision would come out. I reloaded the portal at least 50 times. My heart was racing. Then they released it a solid 30 seconds late!

Nadgauda: I don’t think they released it late. I think it just took you a couple seconds to load.

Williams: It’s still unacceptable!

Vazquez: I had to wait days! You think 30 seconds is that bad?

Mehta: I’ve been waiting for five days now.

Vazquez: I was waiting for decisions that had already been made, though.

Mehta: This is just getting me more and more stressed out, you guys. They never told us for sure when they were releasing it, so I am hoping it is today. They said mid-December, and this is the middle week of December. I need to check College Confidential.

Williams: No, don’t do it. Don’t do it.

A shorter version of this discussion was previously published in the print edition on Jan. 13, 2015.

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