An ED2 Story: Hanson’s Journey to Wesleyan

Founded in 1831, Wesleyan University is a small, four-year private institution located in Middletown, Connecticut. Wesleyan, Amherst University, and Williams College comprise what is known as the “Little Three” – a group of distinct small liberal arts schools in New England. Wesleyan is also one of the original schools to be considered a “Little Ivy”. The co-founder of ESC, Tomer, is an alum of the school, and ESC has sent 21 students to Wesleyan over the years.

Today we will share the story of an ESC student named Hanson. A current senior at  the High School Affiliated with Renmin University (RDFZ), Hanson applied ED2 to Wesleyan University. Here is his story.

Congratulations on your acceptance to Wesleyan! How did it feel when you were accepted?

“I was super nervous. The day decisions came out I woke up at two in the morning to check my results. I was a little groggy that early in the morning, but after seeing that I got in, I was ecstatic to be admitted to such a great college. I was a little sad that I wouldn’t be able to see whether I was accepted to the other colleges I had put in the effort and preparation to apply to. But, as I thought more and more about Wesleyan, my excitement grew. I couldn’t stop imagining what next year will be like!”

Why did you decide to apply ED2 to Wesleyan?

“Wesleyan is committed to a liberal arts education and encourages its students to follow their academic passions, even if that means veering in two different directions. At Wesleyan, it’s common for students to combine different subjects of study. Wesleyan has very strong Sociology and Film Studies programs, both of which I want to study. Additionally, I thought a lot about things outside of the classroom: student interest groups, my understanding of Wesleyan, what my ideal college would look like, and how Wesleyan fit that mold.

Although I was married to Wesleyan, I had my apprehensions. Wesleyan has a very open, liberal campus vibe. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to find myself and my interests in that type of environment. My counselor Kelsey helped me address these concerns by introducing me to two other members of ESC that studied at Wesleyan: Dorothy and Kate. Kelsey helped me establish a relationship with them and set up times to meet with them. Dorothy shared with me what her experience at Wesleyan was like – from studying there all the way through graduation and beyond. I was moved; she let me see how a Wesleyan education emboldened her to be a person that challenges the status quo. Talking with Kate gave me a better understanding of student life at Wesleyan. I am also very grateful for Stacy. After she heard I was considering applying to Wesleyan, she immediately helped me connect with ESC alumni that are studying Film Studies and Sociology at there. Everyone at ESC helped me realize that Wesleyan is the place for me.”

After getting rejected during the ED1 round, how did you adjust your mindset and attitude towards the college process?

“I’ve always liked Vassar College; I could really imagine myself there, and I believed my personality matched well with the type of college Vassar is. When I was deferred, I was very sad and didn’t want to talk to anyone about it. I woke up at five in the morning to check my application status, and by eight o’clock several ESC counselors had already reached out, supporting me through this rough time. That day, Stacy sought me out and told me that getting deferred was not necessarily a bad thing. I would have to carefully consider where I wanted to apply ED2. The application process moves on, and I really didn’t have time to be sad or get caught up in self-doubt. It was important to remember that applying to American Universities is a subjective process. I turned my nervous energy into motivation to write the rest of my application essays and maintain my grades.

Looking back, I agree with what Stacy told me that day. Not having an ideal outcome in the early decision round isn’t a bad thing. I wrote about 10 more essays for my regular decision applications, and that process allowed me to learn more about myself, my goals, the subjects I am passionate about, and the type of education I want.”

During the application process, what difficulties did you face? What was most challenging?

“I had two main problems: the first, procrastination. My counselor Kelsey is very strict about deadlines and that helped me work to procrastinate less. My personal solution was to just spend more time at ESC; it helped me communicate better, exchange ideas and drafts more easily, and made me more efficient. More importantly, sitting next to other ESC students inspired me to work too.

My second problem was that I felt my essays weren’t written well. I now understand that it takes time to create a masterpiece. For a short time I was very anxious about my essays, and I would constantly be thinking about how to make it better, or how badly it was written. I couldn’t get it out of my head. One night I was obsessing over how to rework the language, and I decided to call Kelsey. To my surprise, she actually listened to my rambles, picked out the good ideas, and recalled her comments when she read my drafts. Kelsey also arranged for me to meet with another counselor to get a fresh perspective on my writing. The advice from Kelsey and other ESC counselors helped me transform my essay into a piece of writing that could affect change in the reader.

In a mere 650 words students are expected to express aspects of their personality, hopes, dreams, and what type of person they are, and be unique at the same time. If I wasn’t happy with some part of my writing, I changed it until I was satisfied. I didn’t want any regrets, and ESC helped me get to that point.”

While working with ESC, what experiences have impacted you the most?

“When I was a junior, Sydney was my counselor. She would always be excited to talk to me and give me life advice. I really enjoyed talking with Sydney. During the application process she often would show up with my favorite milk tea, and I would go to her for advice on my essays and school choice.

For the college application process I switched counselors to Kelsey. Kelsey and I met on the Winter Odyssey Trip. During the trip, we talked about my thoughts on a film I had seen on minorities. In the second semester of my junior year, I shot a small film and found the process of making a film to be very difficult. Kelsey was very supportive and comforted me when I doubted myself. It turns out Kelsey and I have a lot of common interests, and this process allowed us to work well together in the future. We got to know each other very well; I know she understands and respects me, and I trust her. I’ve told her many things about my life, and we’re good friends now. Kelsey pushes me to be my best self.

The night before the ED deadline, Kelsey and I were up late making last minute changes to my essay. I was very hesitant as we edited; I kept fretting about small changes to sentence structure. Kelsey smiled at me and said, “You’re getting nervous.” I couldn’t describe how I felt; I was sad, and nervous, and had all these feelings jumbled inside me. As I sat there with tears welling up, she nodded her head. Even if I couldn’t express what I was feeling in words, Kelsey understood exactly what I meant. She closed the computer in front of us, and began to tell me the difficulties she has faced in life. She reassured me that no matter what college I ended up attending, I would still be me. She recalled details from the day she first met me, and how much I have grown since then. I wrote down every sentence Kelsey said that day in my journal. Her words from that night gave me strength throughout the rest of the application process.

What were your biggest takeaways from the ESC Winter Odyssey trip?

“First, the ESC Winter Odyssey trip let me see up close the distinctions between colleges. I no longer view colleges as a series of meaningless numbers: square acreage, number of undergrad students, admission rate, etc. A school’s location and the number of students attending have a huge affect on the learning atmosphere and overall campus community. You definitely want to understand this as you apply to different colleges. At the same time, it’s not good to get caught up in every single detail. You have to obtain information about the school in order to solidify how you feel about possibly attending. For example, if you’re visiting campus and don’t particularly like the student host assigned to you, take a look around campus. See how other students in the library or dining hall act and look. Ask yourself: can you imagine living here?

Another thing I learned on the Odyssey trip was that the people really make up the school. For example, when I visited Yale University, I had the chance to sit in on a West Africa history class. After the class ended, I took the initiative to approach the professor. I compared the similarities of his lecture on West African history and culture to my travel experience in Mongolia. I also used the opportunity to get his contact information. The professor introduced me to one of his students majoring in West African studies, and we kept in touch for a few months after that. Over summer break I looked over my notes from that day at Yale. I still had plans to meet him in Ulan Bator, the capital of Mongolia, but in the end we did not have the chance to meet up. Traveling on the Winter Odyssey trip was a really great opportunity; don’t be shy or afraid to share your point of view, and take advantage of the resources given to you, and you will come out with a much greater understanding of yourself and the colleges you’ve visited.”

How was your experience with your counselor?

“At the start of the application process, I was not emotionally in a good place. Kelsey’s constant support helped me believe in myself and understand my self-worth. That was definitely my biggest learning moment while at ESC. I learned to value myself, and that is something I will carry with me for the rest of my life. Kelsey appreciates everyone around her, and I respect her for that. Throughout the application process, Kelsey was always there for me, and always greeted me with a smile.”

What advice would you give to students going through the application process now?

“In terms of activities, I would recommend dabbling in lots of different fields. You want to dig deep to find what you’re truly passionate about. While you’re exploring, ask yourself: ‘Why am I doing this?’ If you’re only doing it to make your resume look good, you’re wasting your time.

During your senior year, give yourself time to reflect. Take a notebook, and write down your thoughts. It’s good practice.

Even when you’re busy, make time to read, especially during application season.

During the application process, let yourself write freely; don’t be overly critical of first drafts; that’s what editing later is for. You want to be a (wo)man of action: audacious, and realistic. Never doubt yourself.”

What are you looking forward to it in college?

“I’m really looking forward to meeting the other students that will be attending Wesleyan! They all seem very cool and nice. And each student brings a different perspective, and I’m looking forward to learning from them. Just thinking about it makes me very excited!”