Senior Sisters Split

The college process is already stressful, so how does having a twin affect it? Twins figure out how to handle the college process

The college process: a time to establish individuality and make the first step towards independence. Whether by parents, peers or counselors, it’s easy to be influ­enced during this time of deci­sions. Many decide to not share college lists with friends, but it’s even harder to keep them secret from family.

The two sets of twins in the senior class say having a twin go through the same process at the same time makes things even more interesting.

Senior twins Cate and Gretchen O’Brien and Ali and Augusta Aston have made the decision to keep their college pro­cesses separate from their sisters in addition to their classmates. Since the beginning of the col­lege-search-season, neither twin has known anything about the other’s college endeavors.

The Aston and O’Brien twins came up with the idea to keep their college choices sepa­rate from each other on their own. Both sets of twins pre­sented the idea to their parents, and their families figured out together how to make it work.

For the O’Briens, their par­ents supported the process. To make sure neither knows about any of the schools the other twin is looking at, the twins’ fa­ther, Rick O’Brien, takes Cate on college visits. Their mother, Car­oline O’Brien, takes Gretchen, and all four travel at the same time to different locations. The process is even kept secret from their younger siblings, sixth grader Elly and freshman Meg.

“My parents are the only ones who know where we’re both looking,” Gretchen said. “We even have separate college counselors.”

The Astons college applica­tion process, however, has been a little less secretive. Al­though they also decid­ed to keep their choices separate and haven’t told their younger brother, Owen, any­thing about their pro­cesses, the Astons do discuss some things between themselves. The Astons went on the same college visits and shared some of their opinions—with­out revealing the spe­cific colleges they were interested in.

“Our parents were kind of going with the flow as we were,” Augusta said, “Plus, economically, it was just easier for us to go together.”

The O’Briens and the Astons both chose to keep their choices separate for a number of reasons.

“We always know every little detail about each other,” Augusta said, “So we tried to do something on our own and see where it would take us.”

For the O’Briens, competi­tion was a major reason.

“It’s best for both of us not knowing,” Cate said. “This way it’s not a competition; it’s her thing and my thing.”

Both the O’Briens and the Astons agreed that sharing col­lege choices with each other could influence the other’s col­lege choices, too.

“We made the decision so that we could figure out our own interests, and so that our choic­es wouldn’t interfere with each other,” Au­gusta said.

“I feel like if we were communicating with each other, she would tell me about a college I hadn’t even thought about, and then I would think it’s a good idea to go ap­ply,” Gretchen added.

The O’Brien and Aston twins have sepa­rate college counselors. Carol Wasden is both Gretchen and Ali’s col­lege counselor, while Courtney Skerritt is Cate and Augusta’s. Skerritt believes the twins have a good approach for the process.

“In my experience, every single set of twins that I have worked with has been individu­als,” Skerritt said, “Their college process needs to be as individu­alized as they are.”

Katherine Boehrer ‘10 also went through the college pro­cess with a twin. Contrary to both the O’Brien and the Aston twins, Katherine and her twin sister Alex did not keep their choices separate from each oth­er. The Boehrer twins even had the same college counselor at Hockaday, Carol Wasden. Kath­erine believes that having an ad­vocate during the college process is extremely helpful.

“I liked it because we could both talk about certain plac­es,” she said. “It’s like touring a school with a friend who has similar preferences to you.”

Skerritt agrees that having an advocate may be helpful. However, she tells twins to be thoughtful about whether they would want to apply to the same institutions or not.

“I encourage them to consid­er, what would the experience be like with or without your twin with you?” Skerritt said.

Although they didn’t in­tend to, the Boehrer twins ended up attending the same university. At the beginning of their education at Cornell, both Alex and Katherine were Envi­ronmental Science majors. Now as seniors, they have different majors: Katherine is majoring in Environmental Science and Communications, while Alex essentially created her own major, called Environmental Health. The twins spent their first three years at Cornell in separate dorms with their own roommates. At the beginning of senior year, they began sharing an apartment with two of their other friends.

“We’re involved in different areas,” Katherine explained, “but we live together and talk about what happened during the day.”

At the end of October, the Aston’s shared their college lists with each other. According to Ali, the twins shared a lot of the same choices.

“A lot of our colleges over­lapped,” she explained, “except for about three or four.”

Augusta wasn’t shocked to discover that they both had a few of the same colleges on their lists.

“I’m not surprised [the lists] took us to the same schools,” she said, “because we have the same interests. Not all of them were the same though, so it was cool to see how we were different.”

As for the O’Brien’s, they still haven’t shared lists yet. Gretchen believes that even with their separate processes, she and her twin could still end up going to the same college.

“If we did happen to go to the same college,” Gretchen said, “at least we’d know we both really wanted to go there.”

With the O’Brien’s, the se­crecy may soon come to a close. The common app, with its No­vember deadline, asks about sib­lings and whether or not they’re applying to the same school.

Skerritt encourages every girl to “treat this experience like the individuals that you are,” re­gardless of having a twin.

– Elie MacAdams