Touros_SketchFinalWhen I wrote “What Would You Do for Your Dream School?” (The Hoya, April 5th 2015, A3), I had no idea that I would be writing a love letter to my future self. The idea of a dream school is something I’ve struggled with for at least half of my life. Well, I guess it wasn’t a struggle until I got rejected by my first dream school a year ago.

Princeton was the be-all and end-all of my academic identity. I never once questioned what the point of hours of work each night, constant sleep deprivation and excessive competition with my peers was because of course it all made sense. The point was Princeton. The point was getting into my dream school. The point was that unhappiness in the present was going to pay off in the future. And the future would be real soon if only I could hold on that much longer.

And sure, I applied to other schools, but I had never imagined what it would be like to actually attend any of them. I had never taken the time to analyze what it was that I wanted from my college experience, what factors would make a place feel like home and suit my needs. I hadn’t thought about how my personal experiences would shape the person I would become, and how those experiences were incompatible with certain other experiences I would encounter at certain schools.

So when it came down to the wire (literally the last day I could possibly make the decision), I chose to attend Georgetown, because it was the school that I got into that most closely aligned with what I had thought I wanted from Princeton. Prestige. Rigorous academics. Tradition. Elitism.

Sometimes, we look back and realize that we were staring an opportunity that could change our lives right in the face and that we didn’t take it. When an acceptance from Georgetown came rolling around right after four Ivy League rejections (and one waitlist), I thought that this must be my saving grace. I thought it would be the ticket to proving to everyone that I was indeed smart enough and accomplished enough to attend a top-tier school. I thought that by saying yes, I could still become that person who I had wanted to be my whole life.

A year later, and I have to wonder: did it ever cross my mind that I thought wrong?

Just like I had spent eight years doing with Princeton, I spent that summer, after I said yes, building up Georgetown into my idealized version of a dream school. The sweeping relief and happiness that so many of my peers felt after finally deciding where they would attend never came for me. The lingering doubts about the choice I had made remained, but I tried to brush them off in favor of throwing myself into the little tasks of college preparation. I was searching for that feeling of solid ground on which I could build the next four years of my life.

I can tell you that I didn’t find it.

By the time I flew into Washington in late August, I had done a decent job of brainwashing myself into excitement. Other students seemed to glow with a sense of purpose after finally setting foot on the campus of their dream school. I tried to fake that sense of belonging into myself as well, but it just didn’t take hold. I tried to give it time, but by the end of the first week of classes, I knew that I had gotten it all wrong. One of the more frustrating aspects of trying to decide where I would go to college was the spark. Everyone told me that you can just feel it, deep down, when you visit a school and just intuitively know that you’ve found your new home. And I felt that with Princeton, so the wild scramble to find that feeling again with another school was confusing, disheartening and ultimately misleading.

I had tried to convince myself that Georgetown was the new place for me, where I wanted to go and where I could become the best version of myself, but I guess truthfully I’d have to tell you that it always felt like chasing an elusive idea about who I was instead of the actual reality of being me.

I thought the shot in the dark was me fulfilling my dreams of attending a top-tier school after almost-certain rejection, but the real challenge I was meant to overcome was exactly that idea of myself. I was supposed to take leap of faith. I was supposed to reject Ivy League greatness just like it rejected me. I was supposed to believe in myself, shed my pride and accept the fact that sometimes the most wonderful things in life spring from the most terrible grief of losing part of your imagined future self.

So what do I do now?

Transfer, you tell me.  Oh, believe me, I tried.  You’d be surprised at how less gracious an institution will be with its funds for those who need a second chance. (If you have any extra money, now would be a good time for you to throw it at me.)

I’m staying at Georgetown, at least for the next year. I don’t like it here, I’m going to be loud about it and I’m not apologizing. It’s my truth, and every time I repeat it, it sets me a little bit freer.


Cyrena Touros is a rising sophomore in the College. The Outsider appears every other Wednesday.


  1. The only reason you would “be loud” about not liking Georgetown would be to gain pity or to bring everyone down to your level of misery. Don’t be that person.

  2. So why don’t you tell us WHY you don’t like it here instead of giving us this non-article.

  3. I saw your article.

    I wanted to share what I learned during my journey in case it helps. I learned that there is no getting a degree from XYZ University- and then living happily ever after. No matter where you go, you still are responsible for turning life out afterwards. It just doesn’t just happen to you because you have a certain degree from a certain place.

    In fact, avoiding having a dream school (while very difficult) is advice I sometimes give to high school students. There are many, many different paths to success and happiness. Of course, this is easier said than done.

    My best advice based on reading your short note: Try to live in the ‘here and now’. Try to find ways to be happy now. And try to remember you are attending one of the most selective schools in the country. I interview prospective students for admissions and I am consistently shocked by the quality of students Georgetown turns away. You are at a pretty special place.

  4. Offcampuscrusader says:

    Hi Cyrena,

    As one of those students who definitely did feel the “spark” here at Georgetown I wanted to commend you for your honesty.

    That being said, while it is true that no college is for everyone, I would still give it time. During my time here I have found that this school is an incredible place filled with many different niches in which just about anyone can find a home, even far beyond what I had expected when I first was smitten.

    Georgetown is not Princeton, nor does it try to be (despite its reputation for prestige, rigorous academics, and elitism), but I can guarantee you that you can find many of the aspects that you loved about Princeton (whatever those might be) in various groups and communities here on campus. I know of multiple students here who seriously contemplated leaving after freshman year, only to find their niche the next year and be completely sold for the rest of their undergraduate careers.

    So if I could give you one piece of advice, it would be not to resign yourself to hating your time here, I think that you would be doing yourself a disservice.

  5. Fellow Georgetown Student says:

    I can’t possibly be the only one who finds this column objectionable. Of course, you have the right to complain, but we have the right to call you out for complaining. These columns have adopted such a hostile and almost impudent tone regarding Georgetown that I don’t really understand why you picked Georgetown in the first place. If you really were going for “prestige” or academic rigor, Georgetown has plenty of internationally recognized and renowned scholars in a number of fields, so I find it hard to believe that’s the full rationale for why you chose Georgetown. Sure, it’s not the Ivy League, but Georgetown is an amazing institution with plenty of history and traditions. In any case, Georgetown was my personal dream school and it was for many of our current students. To put it bluntly I think you need to get over yourself. Sorry if I come across as mean; I’m sure you’re a bright student with an amazing future, but it’s not Georgetown’s fault (or anyone else’s) that it wasn’t a good fit. Good luck with the transfer process, and I really do hope you find a place that’s a better fit!

  6. I’m guessing you missed Gladwell’s David and Goliath talk. I’d venture a guess that Princeton denied you because your high horse wouldn’t fit through their front gate. I’d suggest removing the silver spoon from your mouth, as it’s clearly given you gastroenteritis, and this….well, whatever this is all over my screen…is the result. One of the most sickening thing’s I’ve ever had the displeasure of reading. I wish you the best of luck with your transfer. Truly.

  7. To echo the above, this is just another example of vague, melodramatic, pseudo-“brave” editorializing that seems to have clouded the Hoya’s opinion pages as of late. Do better.

    But don’t think that I disagree with your position on not liking Georgetown – a few years ago, after my first semester here, I could’ve written something like this. School seemed too hard to manage, friendships weren’t developing, and I wondered what it would be like at another school. I’m sure that a large amount of students have felt just like that, particularly in the first few months, but have refused to admit it. I suggest you toughen up, see things from a more positive light, and join any and every club or student org that you might be interested in. It’s done wonders for me.

  8. “Elitism.”

  9. Recent Alum says:


    I think more people than you would expect go through what you’re experiencing. I was one of them. Our experiences are different, but I would like to share my story just in case it can provide a bit of insight.

    Let me start by saying that Georgetown was my “dream school.” I first visited during my freshman year of high school and fell in love. My brother attended before me, and I cried when I opened my acceptance letter. I just knew it was the perfect place for me. And yet, a couple years later, I felt completely alone and dejected and utterly disappointed by my supposed “dream school.” So just to set the record straight, dream schools can also disappoint you. Maybe even worse than non-dream schools.

    My freshman year was full of ups and downs, but I overall ended it contented. My sophomore year, however, was miserable. Friendships ended, academics became more grueling, roommate difficulties were frequent, and I just hadn’t found my niche yet. I called my parents in tears on many, many occasions and seriously considered transferring. I went to CAPS, considered a leave of absence, everything. It felt like an impossible situation with no way out. But I continued on, thinking maybe I could graduate early or something. Find a way to end this hellish process more quickly.

    And then junior year I found my niche. I before much more involved in a student organization that I strongly believed in, dropped a major that constantly stressed me out, and put energy into friendships that made me feel happy. Things weren’t perfect. I still called my parents crying from time to time. There were nights when I felt absolutely alone on this campus, surrounded by people having the time of their lives. But then there were the nights when I felt like I was having the time of my life, and those kept me going.

    It’s important to let go of the idea that things would be magically fixed if you were somewhere else. Believe me, I’ve tried that and your problems really do follow you wherever you go. The reality is that college is really, really difficult and challenging wherever you are. The idea of a “dream school” is just an idea, not a reality. No matter where you end up, you are going to face impossible situations. That sounds depressing, but it can also be really freeing.

    No matter what, do what you think is right. And remember that it’s ok to hate Georgetown. Really. It totally is. Don’t listen to anyone who says that it isn’t. Best of luck to you!

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