As part of an as-told-to essay for College Game Plan's How I Got In series, The New School's Holly Woodbury reflects on her college journey.
My short & sweet
A social justice-minded performer who gravitated towards big city living.
How I decided
I wanted to go to school in or near a large city because I thought that would be more exciting. I went to high school in a greater Philly suburb, so I was pretty much done with squirrels and trees.
I narrowed down my list to schools in or near cities, and on the East Coast for convenience. I didn't want to be too far away.
I also focused on schools that had a social justice-rounded way of doing things: Like having a lot of resources or people in marginalized groups based on ethnicity or sexual orientation and the like.
I racked up my list of 13 schools with a bunch of Ivy Leagues because my mom thought I could get into them. I didn’t, but that’s OK. I talked to my counselor and he recommended me a school [The New School] and I said, ‘I never heard of this place.’ I’m here now, and I’m in my senior year and I love it.
One of the essay prompts was, talk about a time you were a minority, and I just kind of laughed. I was one of a few black kids that went to my high school, and I said, ‘This will be a cakewalk.’
In my essay, I talked about how racially and socioeconomically I was very, very different from a bunch of the people I went to school with. I went to a predominantly white and wealthy school. I lived 20 minutes away with traffic. Both my parents worked. When a bunch of kids could get picked up by their parents, I had to take the bus.
Even though on the surface I was a minority student, no one ever treated me as such. No one ever looked at me and said, ‘Oh, you’re that one kid that lives 20 minutes away, and you can never hang out anywhere.’ I did a lot of extracurricular activities, which helped. I was in my school’s chorus and was in a lot of plays so I made friends through that.
The advice I'd give to a high school student and his/her parents
You’re going to get rejected from things. I got rejected from seven in the span of like two hours. And it sucks, and it hurts a lot, but then, you gotta realize, you survived that. You’re still alive and breathing and something will come to you. Maybe not the next day, but something will so you just have to hold out and take care of yourself.
And if you do get some bad news that you didn’t want, do something to distract yourself for a little bit, like watch a movie, take a walk, get some good food — anything to remind you there are other things besides not getting into Columbia or Penn.
I’m glad I applied to all those places. That was the most I’ve ever written about myself in my entire life. My college essay is the most I’ve ever proofread anything. I worked well into Christmas, but it was worth it.