Freshman talks college for NYT blog

For most high school seniors, the college admissions process is a private struggle to get into that perfect school. For GW freshman Tyler Calder, it was anything but private.

Calder’s admissions process was followed and commented on by readers of The New York Times’ Web site as part of a new blog the paper started called “The Choice.” Six high school students from across the country wrote for the blog this past spring, discussing their experiences during the college admissions process.

Calder, then a high school senior in Connecticut, was contacted in March by an editor at The Times, who began screening Calder for the opportunity to write for the paper’s national audience.

“It was really cool, I didn’t know what it was going to be about,” Calder said. “I just knew I wanted to be involved right away because it was the New York Times.”

Calder chronicled applying to 14 schools, being offered a full ride to the University of Connecticut, and other opportunities, before ultimately choosing to attend GW.

She said she conceptualized and wrote her own entries with the purpose of reaching out to other high school seniors and juniors nervous about the admissions process.

“They kind of gave me free range to write about what I was going through because it really was a blog to help other high school seniors and juniors with their journey,” she said.

But while the purpose of Calder’s blog was to reach out to other seniors, many of her entries drew sharp criticism from adults. Her first entry alone drew 80 comments from readers.

One reader wrote in response to her third blog post, “I don’t understand, Tyler. Why bother applying to schools like Northeastern, American and Fordham, if you knew they didn’t feel right from the start?”

“It was kind of a shock when I wrote the first blog,” Calder said. “There was a time when it was rough to deal with.”

After the first few critical comments about the blog, Calder said she made the decision to take them in stride.

“People are going to sit at their computer, it’s anonymous, so they’re going to say what they want to say,” Calder said. “It was no big deal to me because I know people are opinionated and the opinions I chose to focus on weren’t the negative ones.”

When asked about how blogs like Calder’s might affect the college admissions process, Undergraduate Dean of Admissions Kathryn Napper said she was worried that students might share too much private information in the blogs.

“Based on what students say in their admissions essays, it could get too personal,” Napper said.

One reader, GW’s Director of Governmental Relations Kent Springfield, said he was impressed with the personal nature of her entries.

“Reading her posts, it struck me what a private process applying for college can be. There is so much uncertainty, and so many ups and downs,” Springfield said in an e-mail. “It takes a lot of courage to put that out there for everyone to see.”

In her most recent post, titled “From Timid and Nervous to, ‘I Love College,’ ” Calder shared personal reflections with readers on her first experiences at GW.

“It was a really quick decision. I was nervous that at the first sign of trouble I would have been like, oh, I made the wrong choice. But that’s not the case at all I’m genuinely happy here. I’m definitely a Colonial all the way,” Calder said.

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