Sweater, thrifted J. Crew | Collared top, Mom's | Necklace, LucyMint | Pants, Old Navy | Shoes, Keds
My family was panicking.
It was the day before May 1st of my senior year, and I'd just discovered that the college I had finally chosen didn't offer online commitment.
My mom rushed to call the admissions office, I rushed to call my current student contact, and my dad carefully studied the paper deposit form.
Luckily, the office allowed me to postmark my deposit on universal decision day.
Moral of the story: don't wait until the last minute to formalize big choices. Or, at the very least, don't wait until the day before May 1st to find out your college doesn't have online commitment.
As someone who's usually organized and punctual, I was embarrassed to submit on the last day. I had finally reached a decision a few days earlier, but I'd held off on depositing, just in case anything changed.
Choosing a college was beyond agonizing for me: my mind told me to go to Amherst, but I felt some inexplicable draw to Vanderbilt. So if you're a senior still stuck in limbo, here are my tips to reach a confident decision more quickly:
1. Seek advice everywhere
At some point in the process, I actually began polling people, from my friends to teachers to coaches. I wanted to hear different takes on my situation, particularly from people who had already experienced college. One of the most helpful conversations I had was with a teacher who'd gone to Northwestern, a school very similar to Vanderbilt, but wished she'd chosen a smaller school. She told me that it'd been difficult to take piano lessons since music students took priority, and that she hadn't had many opportunities to get to know her professors. On the flip side, I spoke to a librarian, who had attended a small school and loved it--sometimes, professors would even invite their students over for dinner.
I also took to College Confidential. My mom stumbled upon a post in her research where a student had been in my exact same situation: torn between Amherst and Vandy. I messaged the poster, asking what he/she had settled on and if she/he could offer me any insight. I received prompt and thorough replies and began to feel more at ease with my concerns of weather, location, and personality of the student body.
To keep things fair, I also remained in contact with my Vanderbilt friend. She was able to give me a more realistic picture of several aspects, from merit scholarship availability to typical makeup of the orchestra. Website and overviews are definitely more airbrushed, so I recommend speaking with real students. I also emailed my Vanderbilt admissions officer, who I'd met at their diversity weekend, to explain my situation and seek more information. She never replied, which was not the most welcoming gesture.
You may get conflicting opinions. That's okay--you'll find yourself agreeing more with some people than others, and that indicates that you already have an idea of what you want.
2. Make a pros/cons list
Here, I broke out the gag gift I had stumbled upon in the clearance shelves of Target a few months prior. Engineered for the indecisive, it was a notepad specifically for making pros/cons lists: the left column was for pros, the right for cons, and the top for degree of urgency and issue.
I made one for each school, and one each one I listed the food situation (buffet-style or limited? number of options?), whether they accepted AP credit and how much, curriculum requirements, location, weather, activities, class size, special majors, etc in their respective columns.
From this, it was clear that while Amherst had more cons, it also had many more pros. It also made me consider how much each factor meant to me, since some are more negotiable than others.
3. Follow your heart and mind
It's important for a school to feel right, but it's also important to be realistic. Please consider finances and quality of academics while weighing your options. I wanted to go to Vanderbilt, but I also knew that it wouldn't be the best choice: I'd be paying more to go to a school where I might have less attention in the classroom. I also wanted to go to grad school in some form, and knew I'd better save as much as possible on undergrad without sacrificing academic quality.
It gets more dicey when prestige is another factor. Again, my advice is to do what feels most right and makes most sense. I have a friend who turned down Harvard to go to MIT--she wanted to study math, and had really disliked the attitude of some of her prospective classmates at Harvard. Contrary to popular belief, she wasn't giving anything up: she was simply selecting the best fit.
4. If your schools are rigorous, worry less about location
I was convinced that I'd be living with cows in the middle of nowhere if I went to Amherst. I was really wrong--yes, the city is more rural than my hometown, but there's still plenty to do and places to go to replenish my snack stock (hello Whole Foods and Trader Joe's).
Also, I've found that I really don't have much time to leave campus. With a full schedule of classes, orchestra, violin lessons, music tutoring, and running, I'm lucky if I go grocery shopping twice a month and eat out in a local restaurant once a week. When I visited Boston and met up with MIT friends over fall break, one girl noted that I knew the city better than she did--I had only been there once before, and she'd been living there for almost two months!
So, if location is a concern, don't let it keep you from enrolling at the school you're leaning towards.
5. Worry less in general
If you've done your search right and your colleges have selected well, all your options should be good fits. I don't regret going to Amherst. Yes, there are days I wonder what could've happened had I gone to Vandy--I might've chosen to major in strictly the humanities, I might've joined a sorority, I might've given up violin, I might've run into Taylor Swift on the streets of Nashville and become best friends with her--all these ponderings are simply part of life. We'll never know and will always wonder what would've happened had we chosen the other path at that fork in the road (Robert Frost, anyone?). I know it seems like a huge, life-changing decision--it is--but remember you're not bound to whatever path you choose. There's always the option of transferring, which people do pursue.
In the end, a college can't determine your future--only you can.
If you have and tips or experiences of your own that you'd like to share, feel free to drop a note. If you happen to be a high school senior still deciding and would like some insight, please don't hesitate to send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org (especially if one of your options is Amherst!).
Tags: college advice
Peacoat, Sears | Cowl neck, DKNY | Skirt, Target | Boots, XOXO | Necklace, Love Nail Tree
Photos by Alura Chung-Mehdi
"Wow, today is exactly a year ago from last year."
My friend laughed at my oh-so eloquent and astute remark. "Lily, every day is a year ago from last year."
I made a face and raised my index finger to my lips. "Shhh," I said jokingly.
She was very right, but I was particularly nostalgic that day. A year ago, I had been visiting Amherst for the first time. A year ago, I was completely lost as to which college to choose. A year ago, the now-everyday occurences felt so foreign.
As a host for accepted students weekend, all of this was even more real. I was no longer the wide-eyed prefrosh, facing intimidating choices and countless potential paths. I was a second-semester freshman, well-attuned to campus life. I had made the big decisions, I had leapt from the diving board.
Now, my task is to immerse myself in the water, the real world, in the most graceful, enjoyable, and original way possible. Here's to the rest of this semester and the next three years.
As a blogger with a cropped cut, I present to you the first of my obligatory pixie progress posts.
When I was first researching how to make the chop, one of my biggest concerns was the growing-out process. I was already nervous about how the cut itself would turn out, but I completely dreaded the awkward in-between stages.
I absolutely don't regret taking the plunge, even though I'm living that awkward stage now (hello blind self-trims of the back of my head). Going super short was something I had debated for almost 4 years. Also, since I donated my hair, I reasoned that if I didn't like it, at least I'd be helping someone else.
Luckily, I loved it. I loved finally conquering my fears, rocking a Julie Andrews-style crop, sporting cute beanies. I was ecstatic that my hair could no longer hide my statement necklaces, printed sweaters, and collared tops--I no longer had to worry about putting it up for nearly half of my outfits. I felt gutsy, liberated, and more importantly, I was happy.
So why grow my hair out? I can't deny that I miss being being able to throw my hair up in a bun, toss it in a ponytail for a workout, curl it for special events, or disguise greasy locks in a classic French braid. Besides, once it's long enough, I can always chop and donate again if I so choose.
So, I'm embarking on the long and agonizing journey of turning my current flippy, often-unkempt cut into a mid-length mane. I'll be documenting the process with updates every 3 months, and I hope you stick around.
If you're debating making the chop, feel free to take a gander at the pixie inspiration photos I compiled, my post after the initial cut, and my very first hair evolution post. If you decide to go for it, please consider donating your hair--even if it's not long enough to be made into wigs for children with cancer or alopecia areata (Pantene Beautiful Lengths and Locks of Love), Matter of Trust will accept shorter hair to be made into mats to clean up oil spills.
As always, feel free to shoot me any questions! I'd love to answer them, talk more about my experience, or point you to more resources.
Tags: pixie cut
Sweater, Rosegal | Skirt, eShakti | Boots, XOXO | Ear Jacket, Forever 21
Photos by Alura Chung-Mehdi
I usually find comfort in routines and patterns, but this one is different.
This one reminds me of my frailty, the confines of my capacity.
"Does this hurt?"
I sit on a table in the sports medicine room while a trainer performs a series of mobility tests on my foot. Biting my lip, I shake my head and respond "no," to the repeated inquiry, though sometimes the poking and prodding prompts a cringe and a nod yes.
I can't believe I'm here again.
After several run-ins with overuse injuries, I vowed to train more cautiously this time. I carefully alloted rest time and dedicated half of my workouts to low-impact cross-training. The last thing I wanted was a repeat of the fall--due to patellar tendonitis, I had been unable to run the marathon I had so greatly anticipated.
But an overly-ambitious long run two weeks ago provoked a nasty blister, and that blister led to running form compensation, and that compensation landed me in the trainer's for foot pain.
And so I add yet another intimidating name to the list of ailments I've experienced: tenosynovitis, or inflammation of the sheath surrounding a tendon.
I'm not sure how this one will play out, but I do know this: I can do nothing to influence the outcome beyond diligently performing rehab exercises and listening to my body.
Let's do this.
* * *
I've been feeling off lately--not only because of my foot but also schoolwork, specifically disastrous midterms and unpolished papers despite hours of thought and preparation. Life has been challenging some integral parts of my identity. I am a distance runner--but what am I if I can't run? I am a diligent student--but what am I if my grades don't reflect that?
I forget sometimes that it's okay to simply be human.
I am human, and I will stumble, fall, completely mess things up. But from disaster emerges the opportunity to learn and improve.
Look on left originally featured in my NYC travel post
Before I make any purchases, I often try to envision multiple outfits featuring the piece I'm considering. If I'm not satisfied with the possibilities, it stays on the rack.
I've noticed recently that because of this system, I've developed a predilection for basics and have become wary of statement pieces. But the reviving old floral blazer has made me realize that bold can be versatile, too.