While on the plane heading back to Florida for spring break, I found myself aimlessly browsing through the saved documents on my laptop. That is how I stumbled upon something that I had tried to block from my memory, as a form of post-traumatic self-defense: my “College Apps” folder.
This month marks one year since submitting my deposit for the first semester at UD. I remember thinking how annoyed I was that there were so many supplemental essays, at least one for every school. Everyone warns you about the Common App essay: “finish it over the summer,” they say, “that way you won’t be stressed come fall.” Yeah, right. I did that, expecting be in the clear, only to realize that there was a lot more to it than that. Every supplemental prompt was distinct and intriguing, and required lots of time and energy.
Prepared to cringe at my own naiveté, I read through my essays one by one. Some were completely embarrassing (for goodness sake, I even said “UDel” in one! I wouldn’t have accepted me!) while others were still kind of relevant.
One question asked applicants to summarize what makes UD special in two sentences. My response: “UD is the ideal place to continue to hone my skills as a critical thinker and leader in order to best serve my community, country, and world. The opportunities and advantages that are available at UD are exceptional, with the resources of a university and the community spirit of a tightly knit school.”
Besides the groan-worthy clichés, I’m pleased to report that this claim has pretty much held up. To be perfectly honest, UD was not my first choice or my dream school. I always imagined myself at a small liberal arts school in the woods somewhere cold and remote. Somehow, I ended up at the complete opposite, but now I couldn’t possibly envision being anywhere else. Even though it sounds like cheesy glossy pamphlet rhetoric, those two sentences are absolutely correct. Just one year of being at this university has made possible all sorts of opportunities and experiences.
A second supplemental question asked students write about what they expect college life to be like. I wrote about going outside of my comfort zone and trying new things. (My ridiculously small comfort zone does not even deserve to be called a “zone.” Really, it’s more of a compact area of solid ground maybe just barely large enough for me to fit both feet.)
Here’s what I said: “The past year has been spent in anticipation of college—where I’ll fit in, what will be difficult to acclimate to, what will make me happiest. And I’ve realized that to be comfortable, I’ll need to branch out of my comfort zone. Communicating with new people, living in a new and unfamiliar environment, and taking challenging courses will all be things that will require adjusting and courage, but nevertheless are experiences that am excited to have.”
The verdict: totally true. Although by most people’s standards I haven’t done anything earth-shatteringly bold, I like to think I’ve changed for the better. A year ago, the prospect of having to interview strangers would have been panic-inducing. Now, I do it weekly as a reporter for The Review, and even though I still get occasional jitters, it has become much easier, maybe even fun. The new environment has pushed me to expand that growing comfort zone inch by inch.
Without the people, this year would not have been nearly as good. I don’t care if it’s cheesy; I would scream it from the rooftops: I have met some of the best people here.
(I mean, if you asked me a year ago, I definitely couldn’t have predicted seeing Joe Biden give a speech at a building where I go to English class everyday.)
In my application, I said: “Something that I am most excited about for college is to be around people who are like-minded in their passion to learn, but diverse in perspective, background and goals. I hope that college will be a place where people genuinely care about their education, and are excited and inspired to learn more about the world around them.”
Friends from home who are now high school seniors are beginning to hear back from (and get accepted into!) their dream schools. I still remember that moment, opening my own first acceptance letter. It feels like all your hard work has really, finally paid off and that letter is something tangible you now can show for it. It feels really good to be watching from the other side. I can’t wait to see if their applications hold true, too.