Observation: It's really quite weird when people you know from entirely different situations end up friends. Por ejemplo: Last night, I found out that one of my good friends from elementary/middle school (small, Montessori) and a friend of mine from a Mother-Daughter Book Club that happened from about second grade to -- not quite sure when, but there was a 'reunion' meeting a year and a half ago -- are apparently great friends and have spent the past week together visiting Philadelphia and New York with one or two others. This cross-applies to a lot of situations: I don't know why, but I am continuously shocked when people I knew back in Montessori meet, and befriend, people I know in my current, public high school. Or when people I knew from my elementary school but who didn't go to my middle school meet people from my middle school who didn't go to my elementary school. Or any combination thereof, including people that I know from last summer's Governor's Scholars Program, people from Camp Everytown the year before that, and people I know randomly through Teen Board or Teen Court or other such places. Yeah.
Observation: College is a really hard decision.
Backstory: For years, I was crazy easygoing -- I'd stress out about a few things, but, by and large, I wasn't too concerned with much of anything. And then college came up, and suddenly grades and activities and past experiences mattered more than they'd ever done before. That, in itself, was a bit nerve-wracking, even though I'm lucky in that I'm a good test-taker and that, in the long run, I don't have that many problems with school. You know, overlooking most of my entire junior year. I've been relatively involved in various activities, I've been published... all of these made things easier.
First, I was worried that I wouldn't get in anywhere. I mostly joked about this: the administrator of my program (also probably a benefit in the college searching process -- I'm in an accelerated/college-prep sort of program in my high school) and I would have discussions in which we would go over 'what-ifs' -- it was basically decided that I would work at a local bakery from about 4:00 AM to 2:00 PM during the day and spend the rest of my waking hours writing and becoming famous without the aid of a college education -- though she made it quite clear that she fully expected me to get into lots of, and lots of good colleges. I knew, logically, that I shouldn't worry, but then again... who doesn't? National Merit and publication statuses nonwithstanding, something could Happen, right, and there was always a chance that I'd run into problems. There were several specific incidences where I talked to (in person, via phone, or via Instant Messenger) people and the conversation -- if it can be called that -- was basically me going on and on about 'what if I don't get in, what if I don't make friends, what if things don't work out the way I want them to'
And then I got my first acceptances -- Centre and Wittenberg -- and even though they were more fallback schools, 'Just-In-Case' applications, it was still nice to know that some college, somewhere, wanted me to go there.
I cried when I got into Beloit, which, at the time, was my top choice. When I was sending out my applications, even, I had a moment of panic where I told my friend Brian, "Oh my God, I think I'm going to apply Early Decision to Beloit, I feel so strongly that I want to go to this school. It sounds amazing, but I'm terrified that I'm even contemplating this." (I found out about ten minutes later that Beloit doesn't do Early Decision -- which made me relax kind of a lot). I was quiet about my acceptance: I was in my computer science class, and Mom had emailed me about my acceptance. I wanted to shout out the news, but kept it in, instead emailing several friends ("OH MY GOD AMY HUNT I GOT INTO BELOIT. i'm like, crying", "oh my god OH MY GOD I got into my top college", "I got into Beloit which just about negates my need for a lobotomy" and other such missives)
When I got into Kalamazoo, I froze. It was computer science again, and Mom emailed me: "Don't scream, but Kalamazoo wants you". I forwarded that to a friend of mine who goes there, adding the line "I thought that this might interest you," you know, coming off as a lot more calm than I felt. You know how in books people describe a "cool rain" sort of feeling when something happens? Where they get all very calm and controlled? That was basically my reaction to K. My friend J got back to me immediately, freaking out ("in a good way") about the news, which sort of broke through my stony exterior and I might have spun around in my chair several times (attracting a few curious looks). Kalamazoo was, at the time, in my top three choices and, at the time, I thought, "Beloit made me cry. Kalamazoo made me calm. This probably means I'm going to Beloit." When I got home, I read my acceptance letter very carefully and just reflected on the whole thing.
I found out about Bryn Mawr (and Mount Holyoke) at home, via their websites. For both of those, I might've danced a little bit, run downstairs to inform mom, et cetera. With both of these, my sister told me she was 'disappointed that [I was] even considering a school without boys' and I sort of just laughed her off, being jubilant and all.
With the other schools, I was either pleased or frank (I was pretty excited about getting into Grinnell, because that was, I felt, my reach school, but I didn't react as strongly as I did to Bryn Mawr or Beloit) or both, but yes.
The problem with getting into so many (and so many good schools) is the decision-making. By about February, I knew that Beloit, Kalamazoo, and Bryn Mawr were my top three, but throughout the getting-in process, my top one changed quite frequently. For a while, I wanted nothing more than to go to Bryn Mawr, partially so that I could say I'd been to Bryn Mawr. This whole time, I was essentially convinced that I'd go to Beloit or Kalamazoo in the long run, and entertained the other possibilities as just a, "it would be cool if I went there but I probably won't end up doing so" sort of situation. I talked to people about the benefits of the other schools, about why I'd love to go to them... but I don't think I ever really expected that I would. At some point in March, I became marginally disenchanted with Beloit and told myself (and Amy) that I was going to Kalamazoo but not to tell anyone else -- probably a good thing, because a week later I started reading up on Beloit again (mostly in their coursebook) and getting really, really excited about all the possibilities (it didn't hurt that I'd discovered that a member of the future Beloit class of 2012 was a great fan of RED). A week before spring break (that is, two Saturdays ago), I was just about to declare to Amy that I was actually probably going to Beloit... but I hesitated. Told myself not to think about college for a week (hah. As if). Told myself not to make any decisions until I'd visited the schools (I went on a college-visiting trip last week; Wednesday to Saturday, visiting Beloit and Kalamazoo). Tried not to dwell (which proved to be very hard).
But it's a good thing that I didn't declare. I went to Beloit expecting to be amazed, expecting to fall in love with it, expecting my future there to be cemented. But something felt a bit off -- it was a nice enough college, but, unfortunately, in my own, personal, opinion, it represented itself on paper a lot more adeptly than it did in actual presentation. The size was perfect. One of the three classes that I sat in on (an education class) was amazing. There were interesting people. But (as I wrote in my notebook of observations as I settled down, watching Heathers with my night host and her roommate that night), the thing with Beloit was, I couldn't really see myself there for the next four years. There was something about the campus: I just couldn't picture myself as a student there.
I visited Kalamazoo the next day. My seeing the campus was like my seeing the Wittenberg campus over spring break of last year: I didn't want to love it, but I did. K and Wittenberg are the two colleges I've loved upon sight (when I did my visits last year, I kept telling myself that I only liked Wittenberg because it was the first college I visited, but, really, the feeling I got at that campus wasn't nearly met by any of the other colleges that year. My only issue with Wittenberg was, actually, the academics: they bored me. Which, you know, kind of a problem in an educational institution?). It felt sort of like home -- not in the sense that I belonged there (though I did get an inkling of that), but in the sense that it reminded me a lot of Lexington. Dad and I stopped for Starbucks on our way to locating his hotel, and I remember looking out the window and thinking, this reminds me almost exactly of the street leading to my high school. Just like Kentucky! Except without so many horses. I realized that, even though I don't want to stay in Kentucky, I want to stay somewhere a lot like it. I love how Kentucky is. It's a jewel, really -- even though it's poor as anything, even though it's the brunt of many hick/redneck jokes... the land, itself, is beautiful. My grandmother once called it a 'secret beauty', which I feel is very true. People don't really get to experience it that much, for which I'm actually pretty glad. I want Kentucky to stay a secret paradise. I want to live elsewhere for at least four years, yes, but that doesn't mean I love it any less. Perhaps it means that I love it all the more -- absence makes the heart grow fonder, after all -- but I don't know. The area of Michigan where Kalamazoo is... well. It might not be as green in early April as the (rather flooded) Kentucky is, but the feel of the area is the same. The people at the college were more engaging. The campus reminded me of the lovechild of Wittenberg and Morehead, except with better academics (and, considering I loved the Wittenberg campus and lived on the Morehead one for five weeks (subsequently growing to adore the location(and even the thirteen flights of steps to my room!), too), this is a really good thing) and a bit more beautification. It rained there the night I stayed, which I think actually charmed me. The people there seemed more helpful, more active. I don't know. Maybe my friend J secretly contacted everyone there and told them to be engaging (I don't think she did. I hope she didn't...) around me. More personable, like.
Except, when I left the Kalamazoo campus to go back to Chicago (for the flight), I kept second-guessing my feelings. "You've been enamored with Beloit for so long," I said to myself. "Maybe it's just that you visited K after actually getting sleep the night before." By the time I got home, even though I'd been convinced while on the Kalamazoo campus that I would be attending Kalamazoo next fall, I'd all but talked myself out of this decision. I actually considered going to Centre, instead (closest campus to me, and yet I've never visited it. Go figure!) for about half an hour.
And then I hung out with Amy at a local coffeeshop. When we were driving to her house after, I fell into another one of those collegiate panics and we discussed how difficult, how final it is to declare one particular college as The One. We talked through our thought processes, panicked a bit together, but even as we were doing that, I began to realize that no matter how much I might flipflop on college, the chance of my sending in my initial deposit to anywhere but Kalamazoo was incredibly slim. I was loathe to admit this to anyone, especially myself, but somehow I did let her (and J) know, and before I left Amy's house last night, I had already introduced myself to the Kalamazoo class of 2012 on Facebook. This act, in itself, made me panic a bit more, but when I got home, I told my mom that I was probably going to go to K next year and, for the first time in months, my college-related panic lessened.
When I started this post, I was panicking again. "Is this the right choice?" I asked myself. "Can I really be so certain?"
But the thing is, no matter how much I might want a perfect school, there isn't one. Kalamazoo is the best fit I've found, even if the final decision was basically based off of the aura of the campus. The difference, as I told Amy, between K and Beloit, was that I could see myself as a student at Kalamazoo. Moreso than at any other college I've visited, I've felt that I could really succeed there. I still am not 100% certain that I'm right, but, then again, I think I'll probably be panicking, however minutely, about this decision for probably the rest of my life. "Did I make the right choice?" I'll probably ask myself in twenty years. "If I'd gone to [insert other school here], where would I be in life?" Even though there probably isn't a perfect place for me, I don't think that I'm settling. I'm aspiring, and I fully intend on being great. And although I keep having these ridiculous panicked moments, part of me is extremely calm. I'm terrified, yes, but also (in the immortal words of Carla Perez-Gallardo), I am EXCITED.
Also, though I'm glad to be finally out of braces... I really hate my retainer. :)