When Matthew Treiber and his fellow high school seniors walk into Oyster Bay High School tomorrow morning, they'll be handed congratulatory chocolate eclairs. Why? Because the pastry rhymes with "declare" -- and tomorrow is the first "I Declare Day" at the high school.
May 1 is National College Decision Day -- the deadline for students to make a deposit to the institution of higher learning of their choice. The tables are finally turned -- after the agony of applications and waiting for acceptance, the kids are in the driver's seat.
At a number of Long Island high schools, students traditionally announce their commitment by wearing a T-shirt from their destination on May 1. Treiber, 17, for instance, will be donning a T-shirt from Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, where he plans to study government.
Some high schools have added more twists to mark the occasion. Oyster Bay, in addition to dubbing May 1 "I Declare Day" and handing out eclairs, has been posting pennants in the hallways that include each senior's name and school choice. The final pennants will go up tomorrow. In the coming week, juniors in the National Honor Society will honor each of the seniors by decorating their individual lockers in their chosen school colors.
William Floyd High School in Mastic Beach has dubbed the week that includes May 1 "College Awareness Week" and has events for underclassmen as well, including a college fair.
"It's going to be cool to see the last burst of flags. It'll be the first time as a grade that we can let out a big sigh," says Oyster Bay's Treiber, who wrote more than 25 essays in applying to 13 schools.
"All the stress will go away," says classmate Katarina Bifulco, 18, who will study psychology at Keuka College in upstate New York because she wanted a small school with an equestrian team.
Making the decisions has been challenging, with some students vacillating between options, others seeing them slip away as they were denied admission, and still others weighing whether they could afford their dream situation.
Oyster Bay's Somya Srivastava, 17, who plans to study engineering, had been torn between the University of Michigan and Georgia Tech. "It was really, really close," she says. But Michigan prevailed. "Michigan is a great school in all aspects, not just engineering," she says. The major emotion Srivastava anticipates she will feel tomorrow? "Relief," she says.
Mark Cordaro, 17, a senior at William Floyd, knew he wanted to go to culinary school and one day own a restaurant. He got accepted to Johnson & Wales in Rhode Island, but he can't afford to attend all four years. Fortunately, he can enroll at Suffolk County Community College for two years, then finish his chef training at Johnson & Wales. "I'm excited for that day," Cordaro says of May 1. "I achieved the goal I wanted to achieve."
Classmate Jawan Jenkins was ecstatic to get a full ride to Utica College, where he will play football and study finance and accounting. "That was a good decision," he says.
Beginning of the end
The selection of schools marks the beginning of the end of senior year, and thus of high school, the students say. "That's going to be the start of the tears," Srivastava says of tomorrow. Students get choked up thinking about parting from their friends, she and others say. So all the coming milestones -- "I Declare Day," prom, graduation -- will be filled with mixed emotions.
"It's more exciting than sad," says William Floyd senior Mallory Nargi, 17, who will be attending nursing school at the University of Pennsylvania. "You like to see your friends achieving their goals beside you."
Says Srivastava: "It's crazy to finally accept that it's happening."