Two Halloweens ago, my family and friends heard the spookiest story ever: Thao applied early decision (ED). This was no joke because everyone knew that going into my high school senior year, I had always been in favor of applying regular decision (RD). Here are three reasons I used to tell people:
- RD allowed me to choose from several schools (assuming I might have got into more than one). ED limited me to a single commitment if I got into my ED school.
- I wanted to see how far I can reach, which was to be reflected by the results from all my safe schools as well as my reach schools.
- What if I changed my mind after being accepted? This was my biggest concern: the fear of regret.
However, I also loved WashU. It had been on top of my list since the very first days of my college search without wavering. Thus, my counselor encouraged me to go on a campus visit before the deadline for early decision to see if it was a good fit. This trip completely changed my mind as you would find out soon.
Early October, I hopped on a plane to St. Louis to visit one school: Washington University. It was a golden autumn morning when I arrived at Lambert Airport, filled with excitement and the determination to find my way to WashU campus by MetroLink. So I did get on the right train and shortly later, found myself standing in awe before Brookings Hall.
My first impression was literally: “Wow! The campus is so beautiful!” I remember standing for a few extra minutes at the steps leading to Brookings, realizing how small I was in front of all these big buildings and how little my knowledge was compared to all the wisdom here. Maybe it was my background from a small school in a little town of Virginia that made a big difference when I first came to WashU. But at that point, I felt like I came from the outside as behind Brookings awaited a whole new world.
Then reality took over: behind Brookings was a squad and I was all by myself (probably the only international student as well) among a big group of prospective students and their families. We were waiting for the information session to begin. Nervousness started to creep in and I did consider leaving because I felt so out of place at first. However, had it not been for this hard beginning, I would not have been so grateful for my experience with the trip, as it led me to fully recognize and appreciate the supportive and welcoming environment at WashU, which can only be felt when you were present on campus, not through any sorts of information source or ranking. It was something that persuaded me to apply early decision and made me feel like I belonged here.
More tangibly, my reasons to apply for WashU were essentially the people I have met on that day.
They were Hana, a bright girl from Chicago, and her family who joined me for the whole campus tour.
They were a random group of students sitting outside the DUC who cheered out “Hey, come to WashU!!” as we prospective students walked by. I was so moved that I have made it a point in my bucket list to call out to a random group of prospective students the same thing at some point during my four years here.
They were my engineering tour guide who let on to me why she chose WashU while her twin sister chose Princeton and how she realized that WashU was the most beautiful thing happened to her. She did not choose a school out of ranking or because it was an Ivy League school but choose a place where she felt comfortable and encouraged to improve.
They were the GenChem professor who blew my mind when he discussed quantum chemistry with all enthusiasm. The excitement was contagious and suddenly I cannot wait to know more about the theories he mentioned and figure out how molecules bonded and interacted.
They were Mrs. Delise LePool who always smiled at us from her reception desk inside the Office of Admission. I still recalled her warm and calming vibe she had and the way she called me “Miss Sunshine.”
They were a random girl standing behind me in line for Einstein’s Bagel, who was kind enough to offer to pay for my bagel because the cashier did not have enough change.
They were all random people, but solid reasons why I felt strongly: WashU is the right place for me. And when you had such feelings, you just needed a leap of faith and courage to go for your calling.
Throughout that day, I have met so many people I am forever grateful for. I also saw myself in that picture, on the campus walking to classes, holding big dreams and being inspired and driven forward by a supportive collection of faculty and friends.
I have also asked too many questions, but there was one question I never forgot to ask myself: Do I feel belonged here? At the end of that visit, the answer was a big yes. Now as I am typing these lines, the answer is still a solid yes!
I may have procrastinated many times in life, but this time, I did early decision and it was the best decision I have ever made so far.
If you are reading to procrastinate submitting your application to WashU, it is time to forget all about application strategies, school rankings, what others are telling. Just follow what you feel and take that leap of faith to see where it brings you! Best of luck 🙂