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### Metamorphosis After College Applications: A Journey with Sangitha Aiyer

The Aiyer Evaluation | What’s Next After Getting into Penn?

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Admitted candidates discover Locust Walk during Quaker Days on Apr. 14, 2023.

Congratulations to the incoming class of 2028! You have successfully navigated the challenging college admissions process and emerged victorious on the other side. Undoubtedly, you invested significant effort into every aspect of your application, hoping to stand out among a sea of qualified applicants. Just two brief years ago, I was in your shoes.

Similar to many accepted students, my application was a meticulously crafted presentation of my interests, goals, and accomplishments. It portrayed the best version of myself, reflecting in every grade on my academic record and every sentence of my Common App essay.

To the admissions panel, I appeared as a prospective linguistics major with musical abilities and a commitment to community service. My diverse international background offered me unique perspectives, and I expressed a keen desire to explore Philadelphia through academic pursuits and extracurricular activities. Described by my educators and counselor as a diligent team player who brought joy to the classroom, that was the image I projected.

Fast forward two years, and I can confidently state that the persona depicted in my application—vibrant, academically exceptional, and ambitiously driven—is no longer an accurate representation of who I am today. In reality, the individual I presented at the time of submission is vastly different from my current self. Behind the facade of confidence and grand aspirations lies someone far more uncertain, experiencing occasional moments of clarity intermingled with the fear of facing a personal crisis at the tender age of nineteen.

I suspect I am not alone in this sentiment. The competitive nature of college admissions compels us to construct a facade. Given Penn’s [ppp1], applicants are compelled to present themselves in the most favorable light possible. We make commitments to the admissions committee about our present selves and the individuals we aspire to evolve into on their campus.

However, these commitments are not set in stone. Upon revisiting my Penn application, the disparity between the persona I projected and my current reality was stark. The envisioned future painted with eloquent descriptions failed to materialize as I had intended.

Coming to terms with this realization has been challenging. What does it signify when we deviate from our intended majors or opt for a more financially rewarding career path like finance or consulting over the arts? Some may attribute it to the pressures of the Ivy League, while others may view it as a journey of self-discovery.

Undoubtedly, Penn offers abundant opportunities for self-exploration. With a myriad of avenues to engage with the community, it is common for students to undergo transformative experiences, evolving into improved versions of themselves during their tenure. Writing for The Daily Pennsylvanian, for instance, was never on my radar before college. I had no prior journalism experience and never considered myself a proficient writer. Yet, here I am.

However, a broader issue looms. The intense competition in elite college admissions compels applicants to adapt and conform. We compete fervently for a coveted spot in the ivory tower, often embellishing our passions and identities. Moreover, the application process necessitates a continuous reaffirmation of these identities, whether through supplemental essays or the selection of intended majors. It is unsurprising that many students, myself included, struggle to disentangle themselves from their application personas.

Since enrolling at Penn, I have grappled with guilt over veering away from my linguistics aspirations, relinquishing my musical talents, and embracing new interests. Yet, there is a certain beauty in how a new environment, opportunities, and relationships can shape us. When I submitted my application two years ago, it was this prospect of growth that motivated me to leave home and embark on a college journey thousands of miles away.

I assure you that departing from your application persona is not only normal but should be embraced. Reflecting on the person you were before arriving at Penn, you may find a stark contrast. You might revisit your application, as I did, and realize that your path has diverged from your initial expectations. And that is perfectly acceptable. As you embark on this four-year odyssey, whether at Penn or any other institution you choose, grant yourself the grace to evolve.

SANGITHA AIYER is a sophomore at the College studying cognitive science from Singapore. You can reach her via email at .

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