and Brooke Fitzgerald
Today is an insignificant day for most. Many Yale students are recovering from Halloween festivities and the late-night YSO show. Professors are holding office hours and grading midterms. And a few students are scrambling to their deans’ offices to change their Credit/D/Fail classes to a grade.
But for many high school seniors across the country, Nov. 1 signifies the first day of the rest of life.
Today is the deadline for early decision applications at Yale and many other colleges. With Yale President Richard Levin’s impending announcement about early decision, the next Nov. 1 may mean nothing to prospective sons and daughters of Eli.
But Nov. 1, 2002, is a milestone for Megan Powers, Paige Rossetti and Maya Shankar, three Connecticut high school seniors applying early to Yale.
The Yale Daily News will follow these students periodically over the next few months as they embark on their road to college.
Megan Powers — the scientist
Megan Powers insists that she has almost no talent when it comes to drawing. But this minor setback did not deter her from taking an art class last year at her high school, where she discovered a penchant for painting.
Powers, a 17-year-old tennis team captain and avid dancer at North Branford High School, is always up for a new challenge.
“I like to try a little bit of everything,” she said. “I’m never against anything before I’ve tried it.”
This summer, Powers’ desire for exploration carried her all the way to the cobblestoned walks of Rome, where she gained new insight into the historical legacy of the ancient city. In beholding the artistic grandeur of the Sistine Chapel, she enjoyed applying the knowledge she had learned from her high school art teacher, a Yale graduate.
Another Yalie who influenced Powers’ perspective is her older brother Al, a junior in Calhoun College. He has been supportive throughout her college application process, often bringing her to campus to show her the finer points of Yale life, she said. In fact, he has encouraged her to consider Yale ever since he was admitted.
Like her brother, Powers is interested in pursuing science in college, notably biomedical engineering. Powers takes her passion for experimentation into the classroom — she said she enjoys science and math because they allow her to prove things actively.
But she does not fit the stereotypical image of a Group IV major; she practices tap, jazz and ballet by day, and likes to hit up dance parties at night with her tight-knit circle of friends, whom she has known since third grade.
“We do almost everything together,” Powers said.
Powers, who grew up in the small town of Northford, Conn., said she would like to experience an urban setting for college.
“I figure I have four years to live somewhere else, so why not try out a city,” she said.
With her application in the mail, Powers waits in anticipation for important news from Hillhouse Avenue.
Maya Shankar — the musician
After spending 10 years playing the violin, eight years taking lessons at Julliard, and two years studying under Itzhak Perlman, Cheshire High School senior Maya Shankar does not have a favorite piece to play. Instead, she has a favorite piece she has not played — Beethoven’s violin concerto.
“I think it’s almost on another level,” she said. “It will probably be one of the last pieces I play.”
But Shankar has no plans to stop playing any time soon, even though balancing music and her other extracurricular commitments — such as cross country and the High School Bowl team — with schoolwork makes for a “constant struggle.”
“There’s no way I could ever stop music. It’s really one of my biggest passions,” she said. “I couldn’t see my life without it.”
She said Yale’s excellent music department and its proximity to New York City, where she has her lessons with Perlman, were major draws for her. She also considered applying early to Princeton or Harvard, where both of her older brothers went. After some heavy consideration and a few lists of pros and cons, Shankar decided in favor of Yale, where her sister Meera is a sophomore.
“I wasn’t willing to be hasty with my decision because I didn’t want to say, ‘I’m gonna apply early just so I can get it over with,'” Shankhar said. “I really thought it through.”
While staying close to home would be a burden for some, Shankar, who is close with her family, said she sees it as a plus.
“If anything, packing’s easier,” she joked.
And living near Yale has already come in handy for Shankar, who turned in her application by hand, early.
“I thought, ‘Why risk having it get lost in the mail? I’ll just hand it right to the person,'” she said.
Shankar, whose parents both work for Yale, said she is keeping her fingers crossed but not assuming anything. Her next mission, she says, is to make up a list of safety schools. And she is keeping a positive frame of mind.
“I try to make the best of every situation I’m put in,” she said.
Paige Rossetti — the class president
As president of the student council at Hopkins School, Paige Rossetti stands in the shadow of a strange legacy. Since Rossetti was in seventh grade, all but one student holding her position has ended up at Yale.
“That’s an odd little tradition I hope I’ll be continuing,” she said.
Like many overachieving, overcommitted Yalies, Rossetti balances a rigorous course load with a plethora of extracurricular activities. Not only is she the student council president, but she is also captain of the girls’ varsity soccer team, a member of her school’s choir, and a singer in an a cappella group that performs in the spring musical every year. And yet, the lowest grade she has ever earned in high school was a B+ — and that only happened once.
After taking a course on modern American literature at Yale over the summer, Rossetti said she decided to apply early decision to Yale.
“I want to be in a place where knowledge and wisdom are important to people,” she said.
Unlike other highly competitive colleges, Rossetti said she had only heard good things about Yale from Yalies themselves. Rossetti said she had formed the impression that Yale students are not competitive with one another, but are instead focused on their own pursuits. One friend described Yale as the college for the “quirky intellectual,” which Rossetti said appealed to her.
At first, safety concerns and the idea of continuing her education just a short drive from Hopkins made the Fairfield, Conn., resident think twice about applying early to Yale. But in the end, these factors were not enough to sway her decision.
“New Haven has its appeal — I like it, actually. It’s not big enough to be faceless and it’s not small enough to be stifling,” she said. “My parents have already agreed not to ‘bump into me’ on campus if I end up at Yale.”
Rossetti said she currently hopes to focus her studies on the areas of English literature, history, or environmental studies. But for Rossetti, what happens outside of the classroom matters most. Like many Yalies, Rossetti has a cappella aspirations.
“Yale students seem to spend more time doing extracurriculars than homework — that’s how I want to divide my college time too,” she said, ” I want to have a good time and meet some cool people.”