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Deferred but not deterred

Senior Victoria O’Laughlin begins her college search again

Tess Harstrick, News Editor
Originally published January 25, 2015

Cassin StacyAfter receiving a deferral from her early decision school, Whitman College, Senior Victoria O’Laughlin continues to pursue an education by considering other options.

Cassin Stacy

After receiving a deferral from her early decision school, Whitman College, Senior Victoria O’Laughlin continues to pursue an education by considering other options.

Senior Victoria O’Laughlin was preparing her college applications when many of her classmates were still settling into the rhythm of their senior year. She was anticipating the news from Whitman College, her early decision school, in mid-December. She looked forward to Dec. 15 — the day she would hear from Whitman, the day her next four years would be decided — not with trepidation, but hope. She felt ready.

But when the letter arrived and it wasn’t an acceptance, but a deferral, O’Laughlin was stunned. “I thought I had everything just fine,” O’Laughlin said. “At the retirement home where I work, these old ladies who went to Whitman were writing recommendations for me too… I thought I had enough extracurriculars to get in, along with my grades. But I just didn’t.”

O’Laughlin’s father suggested touring colleges in Washington so O’Laughlin could have broader choices. She agreed, though most of the other schools she had been considering were in California.

“When I toured Whitman it was like I stepped on to my perfect idea of a campus — a small school with lots of little outdoorsy things to do and professors that get to know you,” O’Laughlin said. “I got so excited about it — I got my heart set on it, and I was like, ‘Whitman is where I want to go.’”

Whitman College, located in Walla Walla, is a relatively small liberal arts school that draws 33 percent of their student body from Washington State. O’Laughlin was drawn to Whitman’s proximity to her family, among other things, and hadn’t considered schools beyond the West Coast.

“When I applied, I was like, ‘this is where I’m going,’” O’Laughlin said. “Early decision, because I don’t want anything else.”

After receiving her deferral, though, O’Laughlin found she had to start the whole process over.

“It’s exhausting,” O’Laughlin said. “I had this plan, like if I was getting into Whitman then I’d be just done in December… But right when I found out, I was like, ‘OK, this is where it starts over.’”

O’Laughlin applied to various other schools after her deferral, and now considers the University of Washington and the University of San Francisco as her top choices.

“Now that I’ve looked at other colleges and applied to like nine other schools around the Pacific Northwest, I realized that there’s a lot more out there besides Whitman College,” O’Laughlin said. “There are plenty of other schools that I applied to that I would rather go to now.”

Now, after going through the process of applying to various other schools she could see herself at, O’Laughlin doesn’t look at Whitman as she once did. “I’m a strong believer in everything happens for a reason,” O’Laughlin said. “If they didn’t accept me the first time then I think that’s just how it should be.”

O’Laughlin still looked for liberal arts schools, and was attracted to those with an outdoors aspect. While the high school gymnast doesn’t think she’ll continue gymnastics in college, she hopes to participate in an intramural sport.

“Smaller means a stronger community in my eyes,” O’Laughlin said. “If a ski resort is close by, that would be ideal too.”

Though O’Laughlin was a three year participant in the film program, she chose not to focus on any one aspect while touring colleges. While some students will consider only one school within a college, O’Laughlin saw the schools as a collective and judged them as such.

O’Laughlin plans to go into college an undeclared major, and will hear back from colleges in late March.

“Wherever I go, I’m sure I’ll be happy,” O’Laughlin said. “It’s definitely leading me somewhere better.”

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Deferred but not deterred