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Where I go to school, I hear a lot of complaints. A lot of the students at Cornell University feel frustrated that their school is a “fake Ivy,” the “worst Ivy,” or simply “not Harvard.” Every time I walk past the library or out of the dining hall and hear comments like that, all I can think of is the fact that I came to my school with a purpose. I didn’t choose Cornell because I would rather have gone somewhere else and it was the only prestigious school that accepted me.
No, I chose Cornell specifically because of the atmosphere, the eclectic mix of intelligence and oddness, innovation and tradition. And when I applied here, I cared about the results because I had a personal investment in the school and what it meant to me. I was nervous. This school wasn’t my backup; it was my dream.
And I was one of the lucky ones. I wasn’t one of the many thousands of applicants who were rejected. I look around my beautiful campus every day and marvel at how lucky I am and how happy I am to be here, and how many people would give everything for the opportunities I’ve had at this place.
Of course, I understand that if I hadn’t gotten into Cornell, I might be sitting around complaining at another college, comparing it to the dream I’d failed to attain. It’s hard to bloom where you’re planted when you’ve spent your entire life watering other gardens.
So when we start dreaming, it’s important to try to dream with purpose. I decided that if I’m going to go for something – and hate on the second-best option – I need to make sure it’s something that will provide me with the unique experiences I want in life. A lot of times that means looking at rankings and stats, and a lot of times it doesn’t. I would have a lot more respect for people who said, “Cornell sucks because it doesn’t offer such-and-such program” much more than someone who just insisted, “Cornell sucks because it isn’t Harvard.” That doesn’t say anything about you or your specific talents or needs or dreams.
If you identify what you want, chances are it won’t be a college or a career, it’ll be something simpler, some characteristic that you want to access or experience or grow into. I didn’t apply to Harvard, so I started off at Cornell with much less to complain about than a lot of people. And while there are a lot of reasons Cornell was the only Ivy I applied to, I noticed something interesting that showcased my reasoning pretty well: I applied to the school whose vibe resonated with me. Find a college, or a career, or a life (or some indefinable quality) that makes you want to write a random article about how the Instagram biographies of the Ivy League universities give you a window into their cultures.
You have Harvard’s:
Noticing a pattern? Let’s look at Dartmouth’s:
And of course, Columbia’s:
The University of Pennsylvania shakes it up a bit, but could come across as elitist.
But then Cornell’s…
… reads like a poem.
Now, I’m not trying to bash the other Ivies. There are plenty of people who would call Cornell’s bio pompous or, on the other hand, unprofessional compared to the others. I’m also not trying to say that Cornell is the best school in the world. But I found something in Cornell’s Instagram bio (which is by no means an official measure of, well, anything) that echoed my experience here. My school is unique among its peers. It may not be the best school in the world; it may not be a “real Ivy,” and it is certainly not Harvard.
But it is the best school for me. And whatever school you end up attending, I would encourage you to start identifying what you want out of your college experience and avenues down which you can look for what you want. By all means look at the testimonies of other students, the worldwide rankings, and the general statistics of your school. But don’t be afraid to seek out whatever it is about the schools you’re considering that makes them special – you’d want their selections committees to do the same for you, and if the special qualities both you and your school fit, you’ll fall in love with it. That way, instead of lamenting everything your school isn’t, you can swoon over its Instagram biography.
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