For applicants to more selective universities, it’s decision time

Seniors+that+have+applied+to+more+selective+universities+are+getting+ready+to+commit+to+these+schools.

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Seniors that have applied to more selective universities are getting ready to commit to these schools.

Lindsay Bonetti and Ethan Franco

For the high school seniors who aspire to attend one of the country’s more selective universities, the application process was hard enough. Now comes decision time.

With most universities going test-optional during the coronavirus pandemic, application numbers at the nation’s top schools have soared, which has toughened the competition like never before. Despite this — and the fact that the pandemic trimmed many students’ resumes of extracurricular activities — some Baldwin seniors have kept their aims high.

Juliana Fedorko said all she wanted to do all along was make her mother, who passed away in November 2019, proud of her. 

And proud she would be, as Fedorko has been accepted to all seven of the schools she applied to, including the highly selective University of California campuses at Irvine and Santa Barbara as well as American University, to study political science.

“Although she can’t be here to experience these successes with me, I know she would have been incredibly proud of me,” Fedorko said. “Not a day went by that she didn’t tell me how much she loved me and was proud of me.”

Applying was arduous, but deciding where to go is the greater struggle, she said.

“I am still unsure of where I am going to actually attend, but my dream school is UC Santa Barbara. Moving so far away is obviously very nerve-wracking and financially demanding for my family,” Fedorko said. “But it feels very rewarding to know that all of the dedication to my school work and sacrifices to my social life have not been useless, and I am incredibly optimistic and excited for this new chapter in my life to begin.”

George Makhoul, a leader in the Math League, Chess Club, and National Honor Society, has had his eye on the Ivy League since his sophomore year.

“With hope to attend medical school, I realized that a strong undergraduate portfolio will be crucial,” Makhoul said.

Makhoul was specifically drawn to Yale University after being accepted into the Yale Young Global Scholars program in his sophomore year.

“Traveling to and spending a week on Yale’s campus, I was able to meet new people from around the world and learn at an intense, exceptional level of academics. The memories I had gained from the experience inspired me to take the chance and apply to Yale this past fall,” Makhoul said.

Even if he is not accepted to Yale, George is committed to maintaining the hard work that has allowed him to get to this point.

“While Yale will soon get back to me, I constantly remind myself that no matter the college I attend in the future, as long as I work hard, I will succeed,” Makhoul said.

Tulasha Neopaney, treasurer of the National Honor Society, was determined to maintain an impressive family legacy. Her two older cousins attend the prestigious University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

“UNC-Chapel Hill is offering me an academic scholarship for all four years, so that is where I intend on going,” Neopaney said. “The wait was definitely stressful, but finding out you got accepted to where you really want to go is also very rewarding.”

Neopaney believes it was her dedication both in school and outside it that has allowed her to achieve her goals.

“I believe that the opportunities that I have received are all because of the hard work I put into my academics and helping around my community all of these years,” Neopaney said.

Aidan Greenaway, National Merit Scholarship Finalist, Baldwinaire, and president of the Outreach Club, shared a similar sentiment.

“When you first see the decision date, it seems so far away. It only starts to become real when it’s two weeks away and it’s all you can think about,” Greenaway said.

But the anxiety during the long wait was worth it for him, he said.

Greenaway was accepted to the elite Carnegie Mellon University and was offered a full cost of attendance scholarship to Fordham University in New York City. He has not decided where to go yet, but plans to major in biology. 

 “During the application process, it is hard to give yourself credit for the work you have done because you don’t know if it paid off yet,” Greenaway said. “Now that I’m starting to get into schools, I’m starting to regain my pride in what I’ve done. I’m glad that it’s led me to these opportunities, which I’m very grateful to have.”

Most seniors have until May 1 to decide where they want to go. But some schools have extended their commitment date a week longer to allow students more time to decide, given many new factors to take into account with the pandemic.

“For me at this point, it comes down to three things: strength of program, financial aid, or location,” Greenaway said. “But schools have definitely started to be more understanding. I’m glad that colleges recognized the struggles that our class specifically has been having.”

I’m glad that colleges recognized the struggles that our class specifically has been having.”

— Aidan Greenaway

For Mariah Jones, the application process looked different than for most seniors. She applied through the QuestBridge program, which focuses on matching middle- to low-income students to top colleges.

“I remember it being very extensive and time-consuming,” Jones said. “On top of writing essays, I had to take extra measures in order to waive the requirement to provide both the custodial and noncustodial parent’s income information. I actually had to provide documents and a letter from a lawyer, counselor, or authoritative source proving that I had zero contact with my father, which was very stressful.”

In the end, Jones matched with Vassar College in New York and received a full-ride as well.

While many saw the shutdowns as a setback, Jones actually thanks the pandemic for helping to open these doors for her.

“I found out about CollegePoint, which is an organization through CollegeBoard that offers free college advisors to students from middle to low-income families, as a result of the closure of schools,” Jones said. “Personally, I think that none of this would have happened if it had not been for the pandemic.”