Raga Bhagavathi '19 is a sophomore at Tufts University.
Let me paint a picture. It's spring term of my freshman year at Peddie, and I'm walking through the student center on my way to dinner with my friends after a long day of classes and sports practice. I stop outside the school store and take a moment to admire all the college flags made by the senior class to celebrate where they will be spending the next four years after graduating. I take a step back and think, "I'm only a freshman, how will my name possibly be on one of those flags in a few years? I'm not prepared to leave. I have NO idea what I want to study or where I want to go to college!" Thankfully, Peddie has a wonderful support system to prepare every student for this process and make it go as smoothly as possible.
At the beginning of sophomore year, Peddie assigns all students a college counselor who will be with them until the end of their senior year. Although it might sound daunting to have a college counselor a full year before you start applying to schools, it's helpful to have someone ease you into the process step-by-step.
You'll begin by having small meetings with a few students who have the same college counselor where everyone can share their interests and thoughts and be part of an open discussion about options. As time passes, students schedule one-on-one meetings with their college counselors to discuss in more detail which schools would best suit them.
Junior year is when many students will likely go on college visits during school breaks to get a feel of what kind of campus they might like. By the time senior year starts, every student is at a different point in their process. Many students still may not know what they're looking for in a school, some students are beginning to write essays and plan out applications, and some students may even be finished and ready to submit! The great part about having peers at all different points in the process is that everyone goes through the journey together. Students are supported by their teachers and mentors and also by their friends and classmates who are always there to discuss essay ideas, talk about schools, or even spend some time and take each other's minds off what can sometimes be an overwhelming period.
I had no idea what I wanted in a school. I started my college search entirely from scratch. A big school sounded great, but I also knew I would love a small, closed campus. Did that mean a medium-sized school was right for me? A city school sounded like so much fun, but I also didn't want to get overwhelmed. Did that mean I should choose a school near a town but not too close? I had so many conflicting thoughts in my head. I was pretty convinced that I would never find a school I'd love.
I remember talking to countless friends and family members during fall term my senior year about what school they thought would be the best fit for me. I scheduled several meetings with my college counselor as I contemplated where I should submit my Early Decision (ED) application. I collected all of my essay drafts and research in a Google Drive and shared that with my college counselor.
Step by step, I figured out what kind of location I wanted and which schools would best suit my academic interests. Starting from scratch was a blessing in disguise because it helped me stay open to many different options. I started gaining interest in a few schools that weren't even on my radar and was then able to make my decisions in a more educated and careful manner.
As the November 1 ED deadline quickly approached, I had a hard time making a decision but ultimately submitted my application with confidence that I had an option I would be happy with if I was accepted. About a month later, I learned that I had been deferred. It hurt for a few days afterward, when I thought about how much time and effort I had put in, but I had to remember that this wasn't the last step. I still had many schools on my list that I knew I would be lucky to get into, at which I could totally see myself succeeding.
I ended up applying ED2 (January deadline) to Tufts University, where I'm currently a student. I love it! I wouldn't have been able to become part of the Tufts community if I had gotten accepted into my ED school. At Tufts, I've been able to explore my interests and pursue my passions. I feel thankful for the moments of my journey that may have seemed difficult at the time, but all came together to bring me where I am now.
The college counseling office is just one of the many support systems you'll have at Peddie throughout the application process. Your teachers, coaches and friends are also with you every step of the way. I had so many conversations with my favorite and most trusted teachers about where I could see myself and what interests I wanted to pursue. My field hockey coaches would constantly check up on the senior players about how we were doing and where our heads were in the decision process. Each of my friends had a different journey with some getting into their top choice ED, and many not choosing their school until the last few weeks of senior year. But we all ended up finding new friends and interests at our respective schools, and enjoy sharing our experiences every chance we get!