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From Dream to Reality The reactions and opinions of seniors on their college admissions decisions and dream schools

For senior Ria Kolli, the highlight of her entire shelter-in-place experience so far came on March 14, the day after school had closed, and when she was still recovering from a cold that had caused her to miss out on the last day of school. Not expecting much, Kolli logged onto her student portal for Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to check for an admission decision. After checking multiple times and making a couple of calls, it was confirmed — she had been offered admission to MIT.

Kolli first realized she wanted to attend MIT while visiting the campus during the spring of her junior year. She was intrigued by the wide variety of strong STEM programs at the school, directly related to her interest in biology. In addition, she was drawn to the culture at MIT, which she felt suited her personality.

“At MIT, people are very open about what they're struggling with,” Kolli said. “For me, that was really important because I am a very vocal person about my feelings. Instead of [going to] a school where you have to put up this image of you being perfect, I'd rather just be myself and be as nerdy as I want to, and not really be judged for struggling or being nerdy.”

After receiving the offers from all the colleges she had been admitted into and joining various Facebook groups where she interacted with people from each college, Kolli was attracted to MIT in particular because of the connections she had with the people there.

“The fact that they're so involved and they care about the world so much was appealing to me,” Kolli said. “What drew me to the school was the fact that you're surrounded by all these incredibly motivated people who have ideas on what they want to do, how they want to make a difference, and they have the resources at the school. You can just go out there and use it, and the world is your oyster.”

Senior Ashley Kim, who has decided to attend the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), also made her college decision based on the programs offered at the school — in her case, the pre-med and biochemistry programs intrigued her the most. Another factor that influenced Kim’s college decision was the location and environment of the school — being in the center of Los Angeles and having an abundance of delicious dining options.

When Kim received her admission offer, she couldn’t believe it. A week later, after having received and considered all her college acceptances, she was able to make the easy decision of attending UCLA.

“I was really shocked because I didn't think that I deserved the admission at first,” Kim said. “I wasn't really sure what made me stand out compared to other people, because UCLA is really hard to get into nowadays. So, at first, it was just denial, like, ‘why is this happening,’ but later I've come to accept that I got [in].”

However, once some of Kim’s initial excitement had passed, she was disappointed to realize that she would not be able to visit any college campuses in-person due to COVID-19. She claims this made it more challenging to decide which admission offer she would ultimately accept.

“It didn't feel the same as it would have in previous years because this year I can't visit the school anymore,” Kim said. “The fact that I couldn't visit any campuses was really sad, and it didn't really make the acceptance as exciting. I missed something called Bruin Day, which is a tradition every year where people just go to UCLA and get to know the campus and what they have to offer there. It was a little disappointing and anti-climatic, but it was still good.”

Prior to receiving his admission offer to the University of Southern California (USC), senior Brett Park had already received 11 college decisions, the majority of which he had been waitlisted for or rejected from. As a result, Park was particularly grateful upon discovering that he had been accepted into USC.

“It was definitely a sigh of relief because I was finally admitted into a college, and I was super excited about that,” Park said. “However, I was holding my breath almost because the financial package for USC didn't come out until a couple of days later, so I wasn't sure if I was actually able to attend the college when I got my admission decision.”

Park was admitted to three out of the seventeen colleges he had applied to — Boston University, NYU, and USC. He made the final decision to choose USC because of its more affordable price and the fact that it was in-state.

While Park is tentative to choose a single dream college, he believes that USC corresponds well with his definition of a dream school.

“I would say a dream college is what you think will be the best place for you and your education,” Park said. “You expect [a dream college] to be the best place for you when you are pursuing a higher education, whether that is the case or not, we'll see if it is the right place.”

Kolli, on the other hand, doesn’t believe in the notion of a dream college –– instead, she views college as a stepping stone meant to provide the resources necessary to accomplish goals and get ahead.

“I have some problems with the whole concept of a dream college,” Kolli said. “To me, it seems like a dream college is somewhere you dream of going, and you're setting all your hopes on one school. I don't think getting into a college should be your end goal. I think college shouldn't be the dream you're trying to achieve –– college should be a tool to help you achieve other dreams in the future.”

Instead of working to attain a dream school, Kolli believes that high school should be devoted to creating achievements and memories that will last. She advises others to look beyond college as the end goal.

“Don't center your extracurriculars and all your time around trying to get into college, just spend your time doing something you really enjoy and that you're passionate about,” Kolli said. “At the end of the day, look back on your four years of high school and feel fulfilled, rather than using your college acceptances to be a validation of whatever work you've done for the past four years.”

Looking ahead, Kim is confident about her decision to attend UCLA and is excited to start school. She hopes to find the motivation and support she needs to grow in her new environment.

“It is a drastic change, but I don't see myself having any difficulties,” Kim said. “I don't see myself regretting my decision in attending UCLA. I can see myself fit in there very well, and I've already been talking to some people and I think the community overall is really nice. So I don't think I will have any regrets.”

On the other hand, Park is more hesitant about moving on because of the significant changes that accompany it. While he looks forward to college, he feels reluctant to leave behind so many of his cherished experiences of his time at MVHS.

“It feels like the next chapter in my life,” Park said. “I was so involved in high school, being in student leadership and just being really close to all the teachers and the people I met at high school, where it feels weird to leave that all behind and start a new chapter in my life where it's a brand new start. It definitely feels surreal.”

Created By
Michelle Chen
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Credits:

Created with an image by MD Duran - "Graduation"