When I was told I was smart from an early age, I settled a bit. Sure, I was determined to stay in advanced classes, but I didn't study much. I did my homework, listened in class and studied right before some tests and did fine. It was only when the reputation of the class intimidated me that I put my focus on it. Everything else, I just kind of winged.
When it came to applying to colleges, I applied to schools I had barely done much research on, and that would most likely accept me. I didn't take many chances due to fear of rejection. I winged every single one of my college application prompts... My common app? It was written at 12 a.m. on November 1st when my first application was due. My supplements? All written a day before or the day of, depending how I was feeling. I procrastinated and just sort of dealt with the consequences. I thought I was smart, so it would be fine.
Lucky enough for me, I almost always follow rules, and one of the "suggested" rules at my school was to apply to a "reach" university-—one you felt could either reject or accept you, but will probably reject you. You apply to reach schools mostly out of curiosity. Mine was going to be Columbia because I loved it so much. Then I saw the number of supplements they had and decided that maybe I don't love Columbia as much as I thought I did. So, I researched other Ivy league universities and stumbled upon the University of Pennsylvania. Which, coincidentally, was located in one of my favorite cities, Philadelphia. I made sure Penn had my intended major, and the night before my application was due, I finished my one supplement.
I had no expectations for Penn whatsoever. I got a message about an alumni interview they offer every applicant and considered not going. Why would I go if I knew I wasn't going to get in? I went anyway. The night before the interview, I researched how to do interviews on google. I went to the e-mail I received and it said, "Just bring yourself!" So I said, "Cool," and went to bed.
Here's a note: when interviewers tell you to "just bring yourself," you should always prepare.
My alumni interview went a little like this:
Interviewer: *asks an introspective question*
When March came and my Penn decision was around the corner, I repeatedly told my family not to expect anything because I wasn't going to get in. And then, by some miracle, I got in.
It was a shock to us all. Not my family, but it was a shock to me.
I knew that based on my common application, my getting into Penn had a lot to do with luck. Sure I was smart but, seriously? It could not have been that good, especially since I definitely had typos.
My getting into Penn made me re-evaluate everything I knew. It made me realize I had been underestimating myself this whole time. I could do anything I set my mind to, and so could anyone else. My acceptance, a self-perceived fluke, taught me a lesson about taking chances I don't think I'll forget anytime soon.
Take all the chances that the universe throws at you. Become a "yes!" person, life gets better that way. I would have never become involved with the Odyssey if I hadn't started taking chances. I also would have never ended up at Penn -- that was the first chance I ever took.
Deciding to come to an academically rigorous university was a giant leap out of my comfort zone. I knew it would be like nothing I had ever experienced and that scared me. I realize now that being scared of something that could change your life is good. So if you take anything from this article: take the chance.
Apply to schools you might not get into, but don't rely on luck like I did. Write those common app prompts weeks, months even, in advance. Get teachers and guidance counselors to read them. Make sure they're perfect. Put your all into everything you do. Don't wing things.
This is your life and you can do anything. So do it.