Let the university select you

What do you do when your elder brother gets admitted to a university like Princeton? How do you surpass that or even compete with it? Everyone around you starts expecting so much more from you. You yourself start feeling that nothing is good enough. But stop right there! One person’s best may not be even good enough for another. I realized this so clearly through my daughter, Ananya, who was applying to US colleges soon after her brother had gone to Princeton University.

Her interests – Chemistry and Biology; her passion – medicine. Being the Co-Chair of Chemistry Club or working in a clinic with HIV-AIDS patients came naturally to her. Another strong interest – research, led her to the highest grade in her Extended Essay in Chemistry and a fulfilling summer internship in a Genomics and Integrative Biology laboratory.

So how important is the availability of a particular major to apply to a university? Should you go by the general suitability of the university or look closely at the programs it offers? By the time of application, my daughter had become more inclined toward Biology rather than Chemistry and a Biomedical engineering major seemed to be the most appropriate for her interests. (And it always helps to know that you can change your major if you don’t enjoy it.) Not all the universities that she had decided to apply to earlier offered Biomedical engineering and Princeton was one of these, offering a combined Chemical and Biological engineering.

Being deferred during the early action Princeton admission was heart-breaking but the key to winning this battle is to be resilient, to spring back up and give your best shot yet again. The cold December month was spent on working on all those regular applications, restructuring all the essays in a more creative way, pouring over the minute details, editing and re-editing every sentence.

The wait for the regular cycle results is a much longer one. Three months of waiting for the decision that will determine the course of your life takes its toll. It helps to have a few early action safety university results already in your favour. But it is really your dream university that you are holding your breath for. Being strongly inclined toward medicine, my daughter’s heart was set on Johns Hopkins University. Her email came to me in the middle of the night, “I got into the JHU BME Class of 2019!” Even though she made light of my tears of overwhelming joy, her excitement was palpably visible through her cool restraint. So much so that she decided not to pursue the waitlists at Ivy League Colleges. Biomedical engineering at Johns Hopkins has no equal. No other university could have satisfied the unique requirements that she has. No other university could have set her on the path to medical school so well. No other university could have restarted the preparation for another tougher application process so promptly and so efficiently.

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