In 2018, Ivy St.Clair visited the New York University campus and was set on attending.

For many, committing early to the college you want to attend and, if you are accepted, disregarding all of your other options, is a terrifying idea. However, it’s becoming more and more popular for students to apply early decision to prove to a school they’re set on going there.

I’ve known where I wanted to go to college since I was 14 years old. I visited New York University over the summer of my freshman year of high school and immediately fell in love. I adored the atmosphere — the feeling of going to college in the center of Manhattan and being surrounded by people who craved independence and loved the city’s bustling culture as much as I did. I decided then that I would dedicate my next three years of high school to getting accepted into that university.

But being bound to a college can be incredibly intimidating, even if you know it’s where you want to be. Signing an early decision agreement feels almost like selling yourself over to an institution, whether they want you or not. For me, I was happy to do it, but the exclusivity that it promotes can be overwhelming and sometimes toxic.

College applications are dehumanizing enough without the pressure of potentially being rejected from the one school you committed to. On average, admissions officers spend approximately 15 minutes on each student’s application. That, added to the fact you can never say everything notable about yourself in a 10-page online application, can destroy a kid’s confidence.

My biggest struggle with the early decision admissions process was the concept that I was competing for a spot with thousands of other kids who wanted and worked for the exact same thing I did. NYU had more than 100,000 applicants this year, with only around 6,000 spots in its freshman class.

For the two months I waited to hear back, all I could think about was: Are my scores impressive? Do my essays make me stand out? Did I do the right extracurriculars? Am I good enough?

In this process, I struggled to learn that college acceptance means nothing of your intelligence or inherent worth.

Every year, institutions are more exclusive, and every year their acceptances are less predictable. If I were rejected, it would destroy me to know I showed the university my dedication and my tireless high school efforts were still not enough. I applied to 10 other schools, all of which I would have been happy to attend, and with time I would have accepted my rejection. As the decision release date neared, I began to live by the motto, “Any college would be lucky to have me, and it’s ultimately their loss if they don’t accept me.”

To my peers and future college applicants, I would only suggest applying early decision if you are 100 percent certain the school in question is where you want to be, and know that if you’re rejected, it isn’t a fault of yours and you will undoubtedly excel elsewhere. I applied to three other schools in New York City and am confident I would have ended up at one of them. Each school had a phenomenal program for my interests, and I would’ve been happy to call it home.

Luckily, my work paid off as I was admitted to NYU. Ultimately, I’m thrilled I was able to apply early decision, and to any students who are as set on a school as I was, I would suggest you do the same.

Ivy St.Clair is a senior at Santa Fe High School. Contact her at ivy.ian.st.clair@gmail.com.

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