The Early Decision: A Mentor's Experience

Ever since I was a little girl, I was hell-bent on studying at the University of Pennsylvania. When I was two years old, my parents took up their MBA at the Wharton School so I pretty much got to live on campus. It’s no surprise, then, that I have come to associate Penn with my childhood. I somehow came to the conclusion that my identity was rooted in the state of Pennsylvania. If I got into its top school, Penn, I would prove my worth not just to myself, but also to my family and the world. To me, Penn was my biggest accomplishment after four years of slaving it out in high school. Penn was the one thing that kept me going through all those long hours studying and tedious times spent at extracurriculars. It comes as no surprise, then, that in my senior year, I applied for Early Decision Admission.

On December 13, 2011, a few minutes past 4AM, I opened my computer and found out that I was accepted into Penn. After spending three minutes jumping, shrieking, and yelling around in my room, reality sank in. As Oscar Wilde once wrote, “In this world, there are only two tragedies. One is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it.” To me, that meant finally realizing just what exactly it meant to study abroad. I had kept my blinders on for too long. I was too fixated on getting in that I forgot to think about what would happen once I actually did. Soon enough, I realized that I was more scared and more insecure than I was before getting that acceptance letter.

The first thought that went through my head was: Am I good enough to be at Penn? I did not know, as I never will, if I got into Penn because I was a double legacy or because I was from a local school in the Philippines (ergo affirmative action). Having played the statistics so they would be in my favor, I wasn’t sure whether or not I really deserved to get in. I began to doubt myself more.  My SAT score was certainly not as high as everyone else’s, my school certainly did not offer the most competitive curriculum, and I didn’t think I did much with my life. I was scared that I’d be mediocre and incompetent next to everyone else on Locust Walk.

More than that, having applied only to one school, particularly the one where I had the highest statistical chance of getting in based on my profile, made me wonder what would have happened if I applied to other schools. Did I really belong at Penn? I never stopped to consider whether or not I wanted to go to a large school in an urban setting with an active social life. I never stopped and thought about where my needs would be best met. I had an irrational notion that thinking about what happened once I got in was a jinx. I also was so scared to make myself hope, and later on feel so much pain if I didn’t get in. I did not know what to do, having never prepared myself. Making my decision for the wrong reasons now had its consequences. 

However, in the Fall of 2012, I finally got on a plane to Pennsylvania. When I finally took my first steps after so long on Locust Walk, I realized that I really did want Penn.  Looking back at my freshman year, I wouldn’t trade my experience for anything else in the world. The people I’ve met, the classes I’ve taken, and the things I’ve gotten to do made everyday I was at Penn amazing. But even as I sit back and take in the Penn experience, I live every day never really sure about just how good I really am.

For any of you applying ED, here’s some advice I wish someone told me two years ago: 

  1. Think your decision through. Even if you’ve found your dream school, make sure you’ve truly explored your options. You only get to go to college once so make sure you pick the school that you really think is perfect for you.  
  2. Be yourself. I know everywhere you look someone will tell you this but it’s something that cannot be emphasized enough. When you finally matriculate, you have to make sure that you’ll be with people just like you. 
  3. Don’t fully depend on statistics. Even if it’s easier to get into a particular high-ranking school through ED, don’t make that your only reason for applying. You might end up regretting your decision later on. 
  4. If you don’t get in, it’s not the end of the world. There is another school out there that’s perfect for you, you just don’t know it yet!

Tricia Peralta is a graduate of PAREF Woodrose School and currently attends the University of Pennsylvania as part of the class of 2016.