Okay, so here’s another of those “How I got to Stanford” type posts. Yeah, there are a lot of them already, but I personally think it’s really cool to hear (see, read, whatever) everyone’s stories, because they’re all so different even though we all ended up in the same place.
So before I start my own story, a disclaimer: This is probably going to be a pretty disorganized post. I promise I’ll try not to become completely incoherent.
Some background: I’m Vienna, occasionally known on Facebook as “that girl with the awesome middle name.” However, Fluorescence is unfortunately not my real middle name. I’ve been homeschooled my entire life, which right away makes me a little different. Yes, I have friends. I’m socialized. I don’t go to class in my pajamas. I get grades. All that jazz…anyway. A lot of people homeschool for several years, but then go to “real school” for high school; I know some people who did that. Me, I kind of just skipped a bunch of high school and went straight to college. I enrolled at Old Dominion University as a non-matriculated student, and after six semesters of increasingly heavy course loads (finishing with an absolutely torturous semester in which I took 8 classes), I had accumulated 65 credits (45 of which I can apparently transfer to Stanford).
All my life I’ve been the smart one. Classes, whether they were online, taught by my mom, part of a homeschooling co-op, or at ODU, were easy for me. I always performed excellently on tests, and I knew from a young age that I would go to college, even when I didn’t quite understand what that meant.
At Stanford, I’m a quintuple legacy. Both my parents and three of my grandparents went there, so I grew up surrounded by Stanford stories and memorabilia. Despite all that, I never really thought I would go to Stanford. California is hardly my favorite state, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to follow in so many family footsteps.
Now on to the whole insane process: As a junior, my list of potential colleges was over 40–Stanford was on there, but more out of a feeling of family obligation than anything. As regular decision deadlines approached, my list dwindled to 9–and Stanford was still there. By that point, Yale was my first choice, although being the sometimes-pessimist I am, I was sure I would never get in.
My test scores at this point were fairly good, but by no means great. I scored a 224 on the PSAT, earning myself the rank of National Merit Finalist, and a 2200 on the SAT–740s on the critical reading and writing sections, and 720 on math. I also scored a 720 on the Math I subject test, which I took after chickening out of Math II (probably a good idea, I don’t even want to *know* what I would have gotten on Math II). I tried the Spanish subject test, hoping to get the minimun score of 630 to place out of language placement testing, but fell short by 10 points and was too lazy/disorganized to take it again.
Overall, I didn’t really know what to think of my chances for getting into some of the best schools to which I applied. While I got interviews for several (something I HIGHLY recommend doing if at all possible), I was not able to get a Stanford interview. The reason? As Stanford alumni, my parents know literally every single person in our area of Virginia with any sort of connection to Stanford, and I couldn’t be interviewed by someone who knew me or my family.
I got a few acceptance letters, and was suitably happy but not entirely surprised: University of Virginia, Cornell, and my safe schools, Tufts and William & Mary. Then came the rejections. Three letters in three hours, from Princeton, Columbia, and Yale. I was crushed. I was heartbroken. I was in shock. I was a reject. It was the first time in my life that I had failed at something related to academics, and I had no idea how to deal with it.
One of my best friends pointed out that I had yet to hear from Harvard and Stanford. By this point I was convinced that I had no chance at either, but my wonderful friend insisted that I would certainly get into one if not both. I didn’t believe him.
Nobody I knew seemed to have any idea when Stanford would be sending out their admissions decisions, so when I was scrolling through my emails and saw not one but two from Stanford, one of them entitled “admission decision,” I was taken completely by surprise. I didn’t even register what the second email might be.
At the time, I had a window open to Facebook, where I was on a group chat with several friends. When I saw the word “congratulations” in the first email, I pretty much just stared at it in disbelief for a few seconds. Then, I clicked back to my chat window, typed in “HOLY S**T YOU GUYS I GOT INTO STANFORD!!!!!!!!!!” and ran screaming into the other room to tell my parents.
Harvard rejected me the next day. I was not surprised. Still, my friend had been right about Stanford and I have *never* in my life been happier to be wrong. Then reality set in.
Right away, I knew there was a pretty good chance I would be going to Stanford, regardless of whether or not I really wanted to. It was the best school that had accepted me, after all. Resigned to my fate, I nevertheless refrained from committing immediately. Was I choosing Stanford for the right reasons? I didn’t really want to go to California. I didn’t want to go somewhere because so many relatives had, or only for the name recognition factor. I felt like I had only gotten in because of my legacy status, even after my dad sent me an email from a friend of his who’s a Berkeley admissions officer, explaining how all that works. Basically, being a legacy just gets you noticed, like having a perfect SAT score or being two years younger than everyone else in your grade. I was not convinced. I found myself in the very strange position of feeling unworthy of Stanford, yet very apathetic towards it. I don’t even know how to describe it.
I knew where I would end up, but I wanted to feel good about my choice. To avoid the inevitable second-guessing that would occur, I made the decision to join only one class of 2016 Facebook group: the Stanford one. Within days, I was already feeling better about Stanford. The people were amazing. I loved them all (and still do). My productivity level plummeted because I spent so much time on Facebook. It was wonderful.
By mid-April, my mind was made up and I was thrilled about it. On Friday the 13th (also my 18th birthday), I officially accepted my offer of admission to Stanford University.
Two and a half months later, I have several hundred new Facebook friends, seven (actually it might be more than that…I stopped counting at 5) folders of Stanford materials, a Stanford sweatshirt, three Stanford shirts, photos of me wearing said Stanford apparel in Europe while holding a “Beat Cal!” banner, and NO REGRETS WHATSOEVER!
And that’s how I got into Stanford and learned to love it.