This time last year, I still hadn’t told my parents that I had been accepted into Northwestern. Or, for that matter, that I had even applied.
I’m a transfer student, and the college application process looked a little different the second time around. Aside from the general disaster that was applying to college while in college – don’t take your college counselors for granted, kids – was the added pressure of knowing that this time, I needed to get it right.
Although my parents were generally supportive of my transferring, their only restraint was the same one they gave me in high school: I couldn’t apply anywhere that required boarding an airplane to get to (I’m from New York, and there are “plenty of good schools on the East Coast”). After talking on the phone with a good friend from high school who just so happened to attend what she described as “the best school on Earth,” however, I was persuaded to send in an application to Northwestern despite my parents’ rule.
“You can do anything you want here,” she said. “The campus is beautiful when you can actually see it through eyes that aren’t tearing up from the wind,” she said. “It has the perfect balance of fun and academics,” she said.
I still wasn’t sold.
Ever since this same friend’s purple-themed birthday party senior year – a Northwestern-inspired birthday cake, was she kidding me? – I had pegged Northwestern as a school disgustingly obsessed with itself. This probably had something to do with the fact that I still wasn’t into college at the time, and couldn’t have had a college-themed anything if I wanted to, but that didn’t stop me from referring to Northwestern as “the annoying people school.”
My perception of NU – not NW, as I was soon corrected – wasn’t helped when my year-younger high school boyfriend was accepted ED to the *NU* class of 2019. It was at this point that we had to admit to ourselves that Philly – where my old school was located – to Chicago just wasn’t doable. (The irony of us both ending up at Wildcat Welcome 10 months later did not escape us, though the foundation of a relationship it did not make.)
More out of panic about not getting accepted anywhere than ill-fated love for a school I had never seen and knew I probably wouldn’t be allowed to attend, I eventually decided to send in an application…a hot four hours before the deadline.
It took being asked what I would want my ideal college to look like for me to realize that I was essentially describing Northwestern.
Scrolling through Wildcat Connection – a site that I, admittedly, haven’t looked at since – I felt the irrational urge to join, right then and there, the dozen or so organizations I had found that were in some way related to one of my interests. This was a marked contrast to my experience at my own school’s activities fair earlier that year, where I had walked away feeling underwhelmed and out of place.
The fact that there were a whopping 585 organizations listed in the directory was reinforced by friends and friends of friends repeatedly telling me how “involved” NU’s student body is. The personality trait I had labeled as “annoying” was, in another iteration, unrestrained excitement about one’s field of study and extracurricular activities. A quality that I, too, possessed – it sure wouldn’t have been the first time I was called annoying.
When I received my acceptance email, an overwhelming urge to call my parents was channeled into the construction of a PowerPoint detailing the reasons they should let me go. (In hindsight, this was something only a Northwestern student would create.)
Once my parents were able to see past the fact that they were raising the world’s worst daughter, they reluctantly admitted that the school none of us had ever seen actually seemed pretty great. My mom’s tears of second-hand excitement when we finally pulled up to NU’s campus on move-in day were a pretty good indication that she had forgiven me.
Northwestern isn’t perfect – no school is – but these past few quarters have reassured me that what I was experiencing at my last school was more than just social-media-induced FOMO.
What I thought would be true about Northwestern – an overwhelming amount of opportunity, a beautiful campus, shitty weather, and, most notably, students with a limitless, sometimes annoying (but genuine), amount of passion – actually is.