The Common Application

by Ellyssa Jeong, Centerfold Editor
graphic by Emily Zhang

Amy Xiao, previously known as Austin, committed to Brown University on April 18. 

When Xiao was deciding between the University of Chicago and Brown University, she said that her choice ultimately boiled down to the level of flexibility each college offered in terms of coursework.

“At the beginning of these interviews, I said that I wasn’t completely sure what I want to go into, and I wanted flexibility,” she said. “I’ve been thinking about doing something like bio and public policy as a double major, and what it really came down to after I talked to a lot of people in UChicago and Brown is that Brown was just the much better option because it was more interdisciplinary, while UChicago has such a large core that would make it hard for me to explore my dual interest.”

Xiao said that because of current coronavirus-related cancellations, she is nervous for a worse-than-average introduction to college. 

“Currently, Brown and a lot of other schools have decided tentatively that we’re going back to campus [in the fall], but there’s going to be a lot of patience on social things,” she said. “I’m worried because of the limitations of the current situation that we’re in. I guess it’s just fear of missing out on that first college experience.”

Xiao said she is balancing feelings of excitement for the new bonds she will form in the coming years and reluctance for those she will leave behind at South. 

“Leaving South and moving on feels like a simultaneous sense of relief but also fear. I’m really sad because in the past few years, I’ve been able to be a part of this community that I’ve grown comfortable with, and now I’m having to leave that all behind, ” she said. 

Meanwhile, the Class of 2020 Facebook group has been a place of solace, Xiao said. 

“People have been sharing random stories about ‘What’s a funny story that your teachers have told you?’ or ‘What’s a wholesome thing you’ve done for your friends?’ and just things like that. I thought that was a really cute and good way for us to all stay connected,” she said. “I’m thankful that the seniors are all in this together, and hopefully we’ll be able to meet up in another event later down the line.”

Making use of every moment he had before the May 1 deadline to make his decision between Wesleyan University and Middlebury College, Justin Casler, previously known as Korey, committed to Wesleyan University on April 30. 

Casler said that he took advantage of resources listed on colleges’ websites as an extension of his own research. 

“Immediately after I got in, I did a bunch of research on their websites and found out more specifics about both schools. I realized that both the schools are really similar academically, so I ended up reaching out to friends to see if they knew people who go to either of those schools,” he said. “I did a ton of phone calls with a lot of students. The schools also have people listed on their websites that you can call, so I emailed them and set up a lot of calls with people there as well.”

Casler said that there is a lot to look forward to, including exploring new courses. 

“I’m planning on majoring in physics, but that’s just what I’m interested in right now, so that can change in the future. I’ll probably be taking a lot of science classes,” he said. “I’m planning on trying out a bunch of different things to figure out what I like.”

Despite the possibility that Wesleyan University might close their campus this upcoming fall, Casler said that the chances that he will take a gap year are slim. 

“Wesleyan said that if we’re starting in spring instead of fall, we’ll get our money back for food, room, board and everything else besides the education, so I think that’s a pretty fair deal. It definitely stinks that I might miss out on the full experience, but the beginning of freshman year is probably more about getting adjusted,” he said.

Casler said that the college application process has been long-awaited as he reflects on his high school career. 

“It definitely feels a bit surreal. I still remember being a freshman, and the whole time, I remember thinking about how I’m going to be going to college, and that felt so far away,” he said. “Now that I actually made the decision, it’s becoming so real, so fast.”

After having narrowed his list down to Northwestern University, Rice University and the Eastman School of Music, Fionn O’Connor, previously known as Candace, committed to Eastman on April 30 based on the teacher there. 

“Steven Doane is one of the finest cello pedagogues of our time, and I’ve worked with him a lot. When you’re doing a bachelor of music, the most important thing is the teacher,” he said. “I figured I would sorely regret not getting to work with this teacher, so that’s why I ended up going with Eastman. They also gave me a really generous merit scholarship.”

O’Connor said that while he isn’t thrilled about Rochester as a city, he believes that his college experience will exceed his current expectations. 

“Initially, I was a bit hesitant because Rochester is in the middle of nowhere, especially in comparison to Northwestern, which is almost right in Chicago. But I think it’s going to be better than I think it is,” he said. “To be honest, I’m going to be spending 90 percent of my time in a practice room, so I guess it doesn’t matter where I go.”

As a music major, the opportunity to take a gap year is atypical, though O’Connor said if he was given the option, he would be open to taking it. 

“It really depends on how long schools are planning on being closed for and whether or not they give me the opportunity,” he said. “A lot of the time, music schools don’t want you to take a gap year because they don’t know who you’re going to be studying with or what you’ll be doing.”

O’Connor, reflecting on his application experience, said that especially in stressful times, it’s important to focus on the positives. 

“No matter where anyone got in, or didn’t get in, they should know that things happen for a reason, and most people are really going to find their people wherever they go — whether they got into 10 schools or only one,” he said. “Don’t be hard on yourself, because this is a really competitive process, and even if it wasn’t initially your top choice, it’ll end up becoming your top choice once you go there for a couple of weeks.”