In the beginning, Johns Hopkins was off the list.
“No, it’s a medical school, Mom,” I pointed out when my mother first mentioned Hopkins, at the very start of my college search. “I don’t want to be a doctor, I want to be a lawyer. Besides, I don’t like the ‘s’ in the name. It’s kind of like they meant to write John but messed up and accidentally added an extra letter.”
My mother sighed. She knew better than to argue with me, so she contented herself with turning a page of her magazine and sipping her tea.
Turning back to my computer, I shook my head at my mother’s foolishness. All I had heard about Johns Hopkins was its medical program, its hospital, and its school of public health. But I couldn’t stand the sight of blood, and the thought of going pre-med made me physically ill. There was no way – no way – that Hopkins was right for me.
No, my heart belonged in the hallowed halls of Yale College. Ah, its beauty, its grace, its global affairs program! For the next four months, my entire being was focused on that elusive acceptance. I poured my soul into my application, rewrote my essays so many times that my English teacher started hiding in her office when she saw me, and put a countdown app on my phone. All I wanted was for Yale to love me the way I loved Yale.
Decision Day was the day that would decide my future and whether or not I would live past the tender age of seventeen and a half. I refused to think of the alternative, but instead imagined myself laughing with my friends in a suite in Jonathan Edwards College, studying in Sterling Library, walking past Harkness Tower on my way to class. If I believed in that vision hard enough, it would become reality. Right?
On December 16th, 2014, I was deferred from Yale College.
For the rest of the week, I spent a great deal of time contemplating the horrors of the Land of Deferral. It’s not acceptance and it’s not rejection; it’s no-man’s-land, kind of like asking a guy on a date and getting the dreaded “maybe.” I spent the rest of my time binge-watching Grey’s Anatomy and eating an unhealthy amount of ice cream.
To escape, I drowned myself in applications to other schools. I wrote essay after essay, desperate to prove to myself that there were other schools out there, schools that wanted me wholeheartedly, that wouldn’t leave me with that awful “maybe.”
One cold December day, as I sat in a state of listlessness after hours of essay writing, something flickered at the edge of my consciousness. And I remembered a school that my mother had mentioned, a school in Baltimore with a great medical program and a strange name.
I let out a breath and Google-searched “Johns Hopkins.”
Over the next week, I immersed myself in the vibrant writing of Hopkins Interactive, explored the interdisciplinary, top-ranked International Studies program, and watched video after video of the JHU Octopodes. Bit by bit, I felt my Yale heartache slowly slipping away. And although heartbreak had made me cautious and wary, I fell in love with Hopkins on my own.
My Moment of Realization came not when I saw that wonderful, wonderful “YES” on my phone screen, or when I read the letter naming me as a Bloomberg Scholar; it wasn’t when I stepped on campus, or when I saw the Octopodes perform live. It came in the panic that washed over me as I eyed the decision portal, ready to decline my place in the JHU Class of 2019 and accept a scholarship at another school. In that moment, I just knew – in the most clichéd, romantic-comedy kind of way – that Hopkins was my home, that I belonged there, and that to go anywhere else would be a mistake.
When Yale rejected me, it felt like the world was ending. But in hindsight, it was the best thing that could have ever happened. Had I been accepted, I would likely have become a Bulldog that fall, and being a Bulldog would have been cool. But I would have missed out on being a Blue Jay, and it turns out that blue jays are more my style. My infatuation with Yale prevented me from seeing the problems with the school, and how many other schools were out there that might be a better fit for me.
So to all the seniors out there agonizing over their college decisions, relax. Do your best on your applications, but don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Remember that no matter what happens during the college admissions process, you’ll end up somewhere that you love. And keep an open mind to that one school that you may not expect to fall in love with, but that you fall in love with all the same. Find your Hopkins, not your Yale.
For me, there’s only one downside: my mother will never let me forget that, in her words, “Hopkins was my idea.”
Mother knows best!
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