By Susannah Clark
It began with a love note. On a chilly fall afternoon in my senior year of high school, I received a brochure in the mail from a certain Seven Sister, encouraging me to apply. The fact that such a prestigious school expressed any interest in me was more than flattering—the Seven Sisters are the original female counterpoints of the Ivies. Harvard has Radcliffe, Columbia has Barnard, etc. Though many of the schools have now gone co-ed, the few remaining women’s colleges still stand as some of the top ranked institutions in the nation. Needless to say, a little crush started to grow.
I saw myself as an average student-average grades, average scores, a pretty good amount of extra “curricks,” and well, I’m white. Just as I was coming to terms with the probability of my state school fate, the courting began. Suddenly, emails and letters came pouring in. She had made the first move. After a grilling phone call from my protective father, assuring the school’s intentions and informing them that we were only going to apply if I had a real shot of not only getting in, but more importantly, getting money, they reassured him.
Next came the interview, the first date. The dean of admissions was in Washington DC, and I was given the opportunity to sit down with her and sip San Pellegrino in the lobby of the Marriot. After a flawless interview, I now had a reach school. We were going steady.
My parents were very excited. A Seven Sister! One of the most selective women’s colleges in the country, mine was a quintessential New England private, full of trust-fund babies and future diplomats. Attending there would be impressive. I wanted to impress people and make my parents proud. The diploma would make the perfect arm candy-arm candy that costs $44,000 a year.
The first couple months were great. I worked extra hard on my essays and visited the website frequently. Then it all became a little too much. In the five month period between when I applied and when I heard the answer, the school contacted me at least four times a week through postage, email, and phone calls rounding out to hundreds of letters, photo view books, campus maps, sports brochures, student profiles, application confirmations, alumni recommendations, due date reminders, and a hand-written Christmas card. They sent me their 400-page course catalog…twice. They must have wasted 3 trees on me alone. I felt suffocated. As the pile of embellished envelopes got higher, so did my hopes.
After five months of agony and sleepless nights, I got a phone call from my father on an afternoon in late May. According to the school’s website… I was in! I came home to find a mascot-ed sweatshirt on my bed, bought weeks ago compliments of my father. He sure had faith in me. All I needed was my mailed acceptance letter to set it all in stone.
The letter came the next day, and sure enough, I was accepted…not for fall, but for the spring 2007 term. Not only would I not be allowed to attend until springtime, but the amount of money the financial aid office awarded us was hardly what my father had been assured back in November. What a tease. After a long discussion and some sparse tears, it was decided. I couldn’t go. The Seven Sister and I were breaking up.
In walked Mary Washington, in all her columned glory. In the end, it all worked out. My parents were pleased about the in-state tuition and I was pleased about Mary Washington’s lack of a pressured, “hoity-toity” attitude. Even though no one outside of the original thirteen colonies has heard of us, the intimate academia, gorgeous campus, and Chicken Nugget Fridays at Seaco are hard to compete with. Plus, Mary Washington has boys.
After flirting with the Preppy Socialite, I ended up with the Girl-Next-Door. Hopefully I’ll keep this sentiment in mind as the wedding-bells of graduate school begin to chime.
Editor’s note: This column was originally published in the print edition of the Bullet on September 6, 2007.