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Dazed and Confused

March 30, 2011   The Supreme Court Courtroom (our founding fathers were not above being redundant) is a cavernous, cathedral-like space where it’s easy to feel intimidated. Marshals patrol the walkways during the court sessions, hissing at anyone with the nerve to close an eye or otherwise nod off while Antonin Scalia unleashes venom on any lawyer foolish enough to outright contradict him, not-so-subtly also making you aware that they have guns. Not that they will use them on you for spacing out a little while Supreme Court justices try to wrap their heads around technical debates regarding different telecommunication terms by comparing them to carrots and peas on a plate, but the stern faces you’re met with from some don’t completely convince you that given the option, they wouldn’t use more force to ensure order.

The case we went to hear was Actavis Elizabeth, LLC v. Mensing (Docket No 09-1039), Actavis Inc. v. Demahy (Docket No. 09-1501) & PLIVA Inc. v.Mensing, which was 3 cases consolidated into one oral argument before SCOTUS, questioning whether individuals injured by generic store brand versions of brand-name drugs can bring state-court level lawsuits for failure to warn of dangerous side-effects. Quite the mouthful, eh? Watching the justices in action was fascinating, if only because it added to at least the perception I got, that the oral argument was as much some form of political theater than anything else. Clarence Thomas was, as he has been for years, completely silent, except when he would whisper in Justice Breyer’s ear from time to time, I suspect to make fun of the nasal voice of one of the lawyers ‘performing’ before them. Chief Justice Roberts was fair and to the point, Scalia did nothing to dissuade me from my priorly held belief that he is at least a little mentally unstable, Sotamayor brought the sass, and Elena Kagan deliberated like you would expect a former Dean at Harvard to.

Given that I’m not planning a law school track, SCOTUS wasn’t quite the Holy Grail that it was for some others on the program, but I still thoroughly enjoyed the experience. The mostly white marble interior and aristocratic air of grandeur to the building also sparked some quality debate over which federal building would make the best personal mansion.

It’s been brought to my attention that Hamilton admissions decisions are out. First off, congratulations to all of you who were accepted! It’s an accomplishment you should be proud of. To those of you that received a waitlist or rejection letter, fear not, and keep your head up

If there is one thing I’m sure about now looking back on my college process, it’s that I didn’t really know what I was doing. I applied to a Hamilton as an afterthought, to be honest. I had my dream reach school (Georgetown), and I had my safety schools, and I needed schools to fill the in-between. I never got to do the Great American College Summer Tour that so many people seem to do these days, so I worked a lot off of word-of-mouth to figure out what colleges might make sense. A lot of my friends were applying to Hamilton and other liberal arts colleges of the similar variety. So I thought, why not? In another sign of just how clueless I was of the situation, I ended up applying to Hamilton over one other school when I was getting to the application deadlines because Hamilton had a shorter supplement, and I was tired of writing essays about what I would carve out of a rock with a hammer and a chisel or which of the Three Musketeers I most embodied.

Really speaks well of me, I know. But that’s honestly how it went. I understood only the barest details about Hamilton when I applied: lack of core curriculum (huge plus), small student body, positive reviews from recent HS alums now up there, and the fact that it was a natural successor to the small boarding school I went to. So I applied, and then sort of forgot about it. Then I got rejected by Georgetown, accepted by Hamilton and a couple of other small liberal arts school types, and realized that those were my only options aside from going to the University of Maryland never being heard from again among the 50,000 or so other kids there.

So I spent the month of April weighing the financial implications of committing to any of the institutions I was choosing between, making trips to New York, Ohio and New England to visit the different campuses and figure out which one made the most sense for me. When I visited Hamilton, I won’t say that it was a ‘natural fit,’ as in one of those love-at-first-sight things, but the visit went just about as smoothly as an awkward high school kid like me could have hoped for. Back in Delaware, the May 1 deadline rapidly approaching, I decided somewhat arbitrarily that my Hamilton visit had left the most positive reflection of the visits I had done. Oh, and they were also offering a generous financial aid package (let’s not act like this isn’t a big part of the equation). So the decision was made. Hamilton it is!

Looking back on it all, I’m astounded by my complete inability to grasp the relevant factors of the decision I had in front of me. I floated through senior year treating college as an abstract idea. It’s a small wonder that I ended up where I really needed to be. In a lot of ways, I was incredibly lucky. Because now I can look back at it all and say that, regardless of whether I actually deserved at the time to really end up in a positive situation, I did. But I think that is somewhat natural. We can’t possibly know enough about ourselves at the end of high school to say with complete certainty that we know what route we want to take. Or maybe that’s just the ethos of a liberal arts student… 

Spending this semester in DC, for example, has helped reinforce to me all the reasons why I’m happy to have gone to Hamilton instead of ending up at what was originally my top choice school (GTown), because as a 17- or 18-year-old I couldn’t possibly grasp what the important qualities in any institution were to ensure my success.

Which is not to say that I’m some sort of sage wise man now, because it’s equally important for me to acknowledge the limitations of making any sort of long-term evaluations when I’m only in my early twenties. Still plenty of time to screw up! 

Looking back, I can only feel relieved that I ended up at Hamilton. It turned out to be the right fit for me academically as well as emotional health-wise. I can eagerly look forward to this summer, where I’ll study at Hamilton thanks to an Emerson research grant working on my project “Reacting to a Revolution: Tunisia, Egypt, and the New Middle East” and know that conducting said research is such a terrifically positive way for me to spend my summer, and that I need to properly understand why I’m lucky to have been afforded such an opportunity. I can get up for work tomorrow, work my eight-hour day at the office, and return to my apartment and realize that being at Hamilton has allowed me this unique opportunity to study in DC while not jeopardizing an overall balanced liberal arts education.

I list these things not because I’m trying to not-so-subtly list the positive and advertisable qualities at Hamilton, but to point out that those are things I didn’t even think about when I first committed to coming to Hamilton. When I was giving tours for the admission's office last summer, the most frequent question I would get from students and parents was, "Why did you pick Hamilton?" I never had a great answer for them, because the reasons I picked Hamilton have very little to do with why I'm happy I ended up at Hamilton. But that's part of the learning experience. 

This is my roundabout way of stressing to any high school student reading this that you needn’t worry as much as you are. You may have been accepted by your first choice school, and that’s great. Your friends probably envy you. You might be crushed because you had it in your head since you were 8-years-old that you were going to some school or another, and they just turned you down. Right now, that might hurt, but know in the long run that you’re going to end up somewhere great where you will use your unique qualities and gifts to make the most of whatever situation you are handed. You are all probably smarter, wittier and better looking than I am. And people tell me that I’m going to be fine in life. So if I’m going to be fine (big if), despite blindly navigating some of the bigger decisions in my life, you should feel pretty good about your own chances. I hope that those of you that were accepted by Hamilton decide to come here, because I believe that it’s a place where anyone can flourish and grow. But don’t hang your head if you have to examine other options. You’ll figure out a way to make it work. How do I know that? It’s the only way.

Maybe you went Early Decision at Hamilton, and you are smarting from your rejection letter. Right now, you might be crushed. But just remember, three years from now you might ironically be writing an online journal entry for some other college talking about how glad you are to have gotten that rejection letter, because you ended up where you felt you needed to be. Getting into or not getting into a certain college is the beginning of something, not the end. Keep on truckin’, keep pushing forward, and regardless of where you sign at the dotted deposit commitment line, you’ll make it work.