I had been waiting for this moment since November, and I couldn't figure out why it felt so anti-climactic.
I read the decision again.
Yes, I was definitely in.
I hit the refresh button.
I couldn't comprehend why I wasn't gripping my keyboard with the force of my elation, why my blood didn't seem to be brimming with potential energy, ready to race to the surface of my skin and explode through my flimsy epidermis.
It was all still a game. I was collecting acceptances, not processing them.
It wasn't until I had all of my decisions back, laid out in front of me like a dozen possible futures, that the unique character of each school began to materialize.
It was like a reality dating show. The first few cuts were obvious. Factors such as prestige, location, cost, and diversity practically narrowed my choices down to two or three for me.
Then it got personal.
I visited the remaining schools with an eye towards a future engagement. I made a venn diagram, a cost-benefit analysis, and a SOV (scale of values) from which to determine my decision. I visited club meetings, sat in on classes, visited academic advising offices, participated in overnight programs... I did just about everything I could do to collect, synthesize, and analyze the available information. Like you, I wanted to make the best-informed decision humanly possible.
Unfortunately, everything started to blend together after a while. Every school seemed devoted to giving me a "well-rounded liberal arts education." Every student body was "motivated." Every professor was "easily accessible."
My head swirling with these seemingly universal selling points, I hopped on BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) to meet my dad for dinner in San Fran. I had asked to explore the campus by myself for a while in order to get a feel for what it would be like to attend Cal, to be (somewhat) independent from my parents and my former life. I brought a book with me onto the train to quell my raging thoughts and pass the time. Just as I was starting to delve back into the book I had abandoned all morning for an equally surreal world, a girl in her early twenties sat down next to me.
"You're reading Middlesex? That's one of my favorite books," she said, visibly trying to contain her excitement. "Jeffrey Eugenides is a brilliant writer. Have you read anything else of his? The topic is so culturally relevant."
There was something so magnetic, contagious, and genuine in her enthusiasm for the book. Taken aback both by her zeal and the way in which phrases like "culturally relevant" seemed to translate with great mental finesse from her brain to her tongue, I began to discuss the book with her. Our conversation about the book easily transitioned into a discussion about family, friends, philosophy, and film. Before I knew it we had reached Union Square.
I had more experiences like this at Cal than at any other school I visited. Strike that. Any other location I ever visited. The students set Cal apart from the other schools in my eyes. They were just so EAGER, so full of life. They were eager to help, eager to learn, eager to discuss...
There was no formula to my college decision. A academics plus B extra-curricular activities did not necessarily equal C decision. Although all of these things were taken into account, there was an X factor that I had not anticipated: the atmosphere created by the students.
For this reason, I HIGHLY recommend visiting Cal before making your decision. There is truly no where else like this place for social, political, economic, academic, and artistic discourse.
Hope to see you in fall and (hopefully) exploring campus before then!