By A.J. Collins
Special to the Rappahannock News
For Rappahannock County High School senior Tiffany Wayland, Christmas doesn’t seem to be the standard red and green this year.
She’s still seeing maroon and orange.
Just two weeks ago, Wayland received a letter from Virginia Tech with word that she received early decision admittance, thus guaranteeing her a place in the Hokie Class of 2015.
“It’s a good feeling,” said Wayland, who sent in her application Nov. 1 and under the early decision rules must attend the school. “Now I can relax and enjoy the rest of my senior year.”
But Wayland, it appears, is one of the few members of the RCHS senior class who will be fully at ease over the Christmas holiday.
Many of her classmates, instead of spending their holiday break watching “It’s A Wonderful Life” and listening merrily to festive music, will be racking their brains while filling out applications and writing essays.
Their fates remain, unlike Wayland’s, in limbo.
Many colleges and universities across the United States set their regular admission deadlines between Jan. 1 and 15.
For example, Harvard, Stanford, the University of Virginia and William & Mary applicants must have all of their forms turned in by Saturday. Cornell’s deadline is Sunday.
Virginia Commonwealth University, Virginia Tech and James Madison University give applicants until Jan. 15.
Radford and Mary Washington allow students to wait until Feb. 1.
“I’m slightly addicted to the adrenaline rush of pressing ‘submit’ on an application,” senior Danika Kritter admits.
The evidence suggests so.
Kritter has applied, or is planning on submitting her application in the next few days, to 13 universities across the United States, stretching from Pomona and Stanford on the West Coast to Vanderbilt and Duke in the South to Harvard and Dartmouth in New England.
A prospective neuroscience or oceanography major, Kritter will be waiting until April 1 to hear from many of these top flight schools. Though applying to these schools is risky — Harvard’s admission rate was 6.9 percent last year out of more than 30,000 applications — Kritter welcomes the risk, even rolling the dice and writing about her undying love for Justin Bieber in an essay.
Senior Lily Nealon, too, is taking risks. She will be hearing from the University of Wisconsin, Penn State, and the University of Maryland within the next few months.
“I wanted a couple out of state schools that were farther away,” Nealon reasons, “and after doing some research [the universities] fit my criteria for a large, challenging school.”
Nealon, like many students, has realized the financial impact of her decision. With the economy still mired in a deep recession and U.S. student debt totaling, according to CNBC, $1 trillion dollars, many students are choosing cheaper public universities over costly private ones.
“My final decision will most likely come down to whichever school gives me the largest financial aid package,” Nealon states.
Nealon’s classmate Brittani Dodson is considering the financial aspect as well. An applicant to the University of Virginia, Dodson intends to major in nursing.
“UVA has been a childhood dream of mine,” Dodson says, but she’s also considering smaller schools like Lynchburg, Shenandoah, and Bridgewater, where she also may be able to spend four years playing NCAA Division III softball.
“My final decision will be based on whether I can play softball, how much money I am offered, and simply where I feel that I will be most successful,” she added.
Dodson’s classmate, Nikki Dommer, has already been accepted to Bridgewater and Lynchburg, as well as Randolph and Virginia Wesleyan.
A prospective business administration major, Dommer has not decided which school she will attend, adding “in the end it might come down to how [she likes] the campus, the staff, and which school offers [her] the most money.”
Still, many of America’s seniors will not have decided on their college choice until late spring.
The college admissions process is becoming more high stakes, with spots to many state schools, including UVA, William & Mary, and Virginia Tech, becoming less predictable and more like playing the lottery.
In spite of the stress of facing the unknown, these RCHS seniors remain upbeat.
“If a college rejects you for just being yourself, then why would you want to go there anyway,” Kritter figures.
To her, the goal of the process is to “try to enjoy learning about yourself.”
“Applying to college is stressful,” Nealon notes, “but it’s also fun waiting and finding out where you have been accepted.”
And these seniors will be waiting with bated breath for their acceptance envelopes and rejection letters, but, by May at the latest, each will know where she will be spending her next few years.
Wayland is looking forward to that prospect, excitedly remarking, “I am excited to start this new experience and I can’t wait for fall.”