The Common Application

by Eva Shimkus, Managing Editor
graphic by Emily Zhang

Melissa Shang, previously known as Amy, committed to Harvard University on April 7. 

Although she expects the new academic environment to be rigorous, Melissa said she also wants to make room for fun in this new chapter of her life. 

“I’m excited to explore new cultures and experience college things, like going to my first party and living in a dorm,” she said.

She is also glad to be staying close to home, where she said she feels most comfortable.

“It allows me to live in a place where I don’t have to adjust to everything while balancing schoolwork,” she said. “It gives me more time to actually enjoy going to college.”

Melissa said that while being rejected from Stanford University was not easy, she is ultimately happy with where the college process has taken her.

“At the end of the day, it’s still a rejection, and I feel like if you get rejected from anything, you need to give yourself time to feel all of these emotions; you need to have time to be upset,” she said. “I’m going to be just as happy at Harvard, and at the end of the day, it also doesn’t define [me] or my worth.”

At Harvard, Melissa said she is planning on majoring in Government.

“As a disability activist, or just as someone with a disability in general, it’s hard for me to be seen as legitimate. It’s really hard for my voice to be broadcasted because society is so generally unaccepting and disability is so stigmatized,” she said. “Going somewhere like Harvard that has such a big platform and gives me so many opportunities is really going to help me get my voice across and help me accomplish what I want to accomplish in the world, which is equality for every disabled person.”

. . .

Kurt* was accepted to Bennington College, Drexel University, Ithaca College and UMass Amherst. Additionally, he was accepted to Boston University (BU) for the 2022 school year, waitlisted at Emerson College and New York University and rejected from Northeastern University. 

In hindsight, Kurt said he wishes he had sent in a more polished Northeastern application. 

“I finished my personal essay the night of. I went back and edited it for the other colleges and it’s much stronger now than it was before,” he said. “I didn’t show my best, so I didn’t get in.”

Kurt said that he is applying for other scholarships in addition to his merit-based scholarship from Ithaca and the John Dewey Scholarship from Bennington. 

“You either have to strategize for going for a lot of little scholarships or figuring out which of the biggest scholarships you should apply to,” he said. “Now I really have to take into account, with this scholarship, this college might be a lot cheaper and easier to reasonably think I could go to.”

Kurt said that as he is nearing the end of his application journey, he is eager to finalize his decisions.

“The decision is between [UMass] Amherst and Bennington. Both are pretty enticing, but I’m leaning towards Amherst. The environment seems more energetic, which is good for a crazy person like me,” he said.

Kurt said that his nonchalant attitude towards college has not faltered even as the end of senior year approaches. 

“As much as it’s such an important step in life and such a big decision, I focus more on enjoying the now than worrying about the future, he said. “Of course I have plans, but they’re loosely defined enough that I can still be happy.”

. . .

Natalie* got into Boston University, Rutgers University and the State University of New York at Purchase (SUNY Purchase). She was waitlisted from Smith College and rejected from New York University. 

Natalie said that in retrospect, she believes it was important for her to only apply to schools she could envision herself attending.

“South has this mentality of, ‘you’re not going to get to any schools, so you’ve got to apply to as many as possible.’ I was told to apply to 12 schools by my guidance counselor,” she said. “The more I look back at it, that was way too many. I feel like 12 schools is a lot, but 12 is supposed to be the average for Newton South.”

Though SUNY Purchase was one of her early favorites, she said that researching it further changed her mind.

“They accepted me and I immediately declined their offer because I knew I didn’t want to go there,” she said.

Northeastern, another school she was initially interested in, lost its appeal after she was accepted to other colleges, Natalie said.

“The more I learned about different programs, the more I’m exposed to what those programs are like with tours,” she said.“[I’ve] started caring about more specific schools,” she said.

Instead, Natalie said her attention has turned toward Rutgers, which offers a three and a half year program and prioritizes real-life experience over classes.

“With Rutgers, I can start building things right away,” she said. “I have my mind set on it. I’ve been so concentrated on it, and I can’t imagine going anywhere else.”

*Names changed to protect students’ identities