During fall break, I went home for the very first time since summer. Here in New England, fall means sweaters and boots and beautiful red and gold foliage, but back home in Georgia, fall means only one thing: football season. So naturally I spent my Friday night in my high school’s football stadium, cheering on my alma mater.
At the game, I got the chance to talk with many of my friends who are now seniors, and I could tell by their slightly panicked, sleep-deprived eyes that not only was football season in full fledge, but college application season as well. As they told me all the places they had applied, I started thinking about my own college application process and about how formative an experience it was for me.
In high school, I was very much a “STEM student.” Going into senior year, I had already narrowed down my list of prospective schools, and it was disturbingly identical to another list of “Top Engineering Schools” in the country. The thought of applying to Yale, or any liberal arts school for that matter, didn’t occur to me until I received several fee waivers due to my family’s low-incomes status. Had I not received those waivers, I probably would never have applied.
When I received my admissions decisions, I was totally shocked. Not only had I gotten into my dream engineering school, but I had also gotten into Yale.
When my friends and family found out, they were of course thrilled, but they all assumed that my decision had already been made - that I was going to said engineering school, as had always been the plan. And honestly, they were right. I had made up my mind… until I visited Yale.
When I came to visit, it was the middle of winter, and I found myself wandering blindly through a blizzard, christening the coat that I had bought specifically for my trip North. Looking back, it’s quite astounding how a place that was both so incredibly cold and dark also happened to be the warmest, most inviting place I had ever been.
What makes Yale…Yale, isn’t the world-class faculty, the rigorous academic programs, or the gothic architecture. It’s the people. Freshmen eager to sit with you in an igloo on Old Campus for hours, telling you about their experience. Upperclassmen sneaking you into a closed buttery to share a quesadilla and talk about life. A whole suite full of best friends welcoming you to their table for family dinner.
I came back from my visit knowing that Yale was going to be my home, but it took me some time before I could admit it. I was shocked at how, in the course of three days, I could completely change my mind about something that had seemed written in stone. Ultimately, I realized that the single most important thing you can do in the crazy, whirlwind experience that is the college decision process, is to always keep an open mind. If you can do that, the rest will take care of itself.