The transition from high school to college can be hard for incoming freshmen, especially with separation from parents and siblings leading to homesickness. For twins — who have often spent the entirety of their lives together — this distance can seem even further.
But what if your twin weren’t so far away? What if you lived on the same college campus, or maybe a few doors down the same hall, or even in the same room?
For many twins at Stanford, this situation is the reality. The University is home to many sets of twins and even triplets.
While rumor has it that having your twin gain acceptance into Stanford increases your chances, Sonya Smith ’95, associate director of Undergraduate Admissions, set the record straight that being a multiple does not provide any sort of advantage over a non-multiple in gaining admission to Stanford. Nor does being a multiple increase all multiples’ chances of getting into Stanford.
“While we are sensitive to twins, triplets [and] multiples applying, we treat them just the same as any other applicant,” she said. “That is, our admission review is centered on each individual applicant. We read each student’s file holistically and in context of her or his school and community.”
Smith said that at times siblings may share similar backgrounds, causing them to have similar narratives, yet she emphasized the fact that each applicant has a unique story to tell.
Though admissions officers do not specifically group multiples together, they do acknowledge when an applicant has a sibling in the applicant pool. There is an option on the Stanford Supplement for applicants to indicate if they have a sibling who is also applying to Stanford.
“It may mean that she or he is a twin, triplet [or] multiple, but it could also mean that one sibling is applying as a freshman and another as a transfer or that one sibling is graduating early,” Smith said. “Sometimes a teacher or guidance counselor letter will also mention that the applicant is a twin or triplet.”
Even if each multiple gains acceptance to the same university, there is still the common need among siblings to differentiate themselves from one another. However, many sets of twins who attend Stanford note that the University is large enough for each to develop his or her own experience.
Elena Ayala ’14 attends Stanford with her twin Alejandro. She noted that, during freshman year, they were placed on opposite sides of campus, and as a result, developed separate groups of friends. In fact, the only times they saw each other were when their parents visited.
The two also focus on different areas of academic study. Elena plans to study English and sociology, while her brother enjoys computer science. Despite these differences, however, this year both are taking Social Dance and currently live in Crothers Hall.
“Though we have different and separate lives, there is always the possibility of being able to see him for help and companionship,” Elena said.
Twins Melanie and Veronica Polin ’14 observe similar experiences at Stanford.
“In high school, it was a lot harder to separate,” Veronica said. “Growing up, we were a lot more put together in different activities, but at Stanford, we’ve been really able to pursue different interests and create our own identities.”
Though they share similar circles of friends and are roommates this year, the two have different academic interests. Melanie plans to major in biology, while Veronica intends to study international relations and economics.
Melanie suggested that, while she enjoys having Veronica around, they experience no pressure to hang out all the time. In particular, Melanie looks forward to studying abroad in order to live independently from her sister.
“Studying abroad in a different country will be an entirely new experience,” Melanie said. “For three months, I’ll be able to see what life would be like without my sister.”
For freshmen, having a familiar face on campus can ease part of the anxiety that comes with the transition to college. Arielle Basich ’15 attends Stanford with her twin brother Chase and said she believes that her adjustment to college life was made easier by the presence of her brother.
“I love having someone to talk about friends and family back home,” Arielle said. “Plus, he is my best friend, so I couldn’t really ask for anything better.”
Basich also noted that incoming freshman twins tend to be placed into separate housing. For instance, she lives in Stern Hall while her brother lives in Florence Moore Hall. She said she feels this has essential to the creation of her own college experience independent of her twin.
Elena, Melanie, Veronica and Arielle all agreed that there are many sets of twins at Stanford and the pairs are able to relate and bond over a shared experience.
“We can laugh at a lot of similar things and tendencies that we know and have,” Veronica said with a smile. “It’s a twin thing.”
For many twins at Stanford whose siblings attend another university, separating from their other halves came with the initial drastic change of leaving home.
Mitch Wheeler ’14 is an identical twin whose brother attends the University of Chicago. They are able to visit each other at least once a year and Skype fairly often. In addition, both Stanford and the University of Chicago are on quarter systems, so they share similar academic breaks. Nevertheless, Wheeler admitted that the transition to college was made more difficult because his twin was across the country.
“ [When I am at home], I am always with [him] doing something,” Wheeler said. “When I come to Stanford, I have a lot more time alone to do my own thing, but there are kids that kind of replace your twin.”
Despite their geographic separation, Mitch and his brother are both economics majors and often take similar classes.
“In retrospect, it would have been nice and cool to have him with me, to have somebody to do stuff with, to take the same classes [since] we’re the same major,” he said.
Wheeler notes that if his twin had come to Stanford, he probably would have had a similar experience. They are both involved in Greek life and consider themselves to be outgoing people, though they are more outgoing as a pair.
Michael Celentano ’14 is a fraternal twin whose sister attends Washington University in St. Louis. He also has two older sisters, but comments on how being separated from his twin is different than being away from his other siblings.
“The transition is much more extreme with a twin because you are constantly together when [you’re] growing up,” he noted. “We were in the same grade and classes, and our social lives overlapped.”
Celentano plans to study math and physics and finds Stanford to be the right fit for him, while his sister enjoys art and anthropology and prefers the social environment at Washington University in St. Louis.
Despite missing his sister, Celentano said he believes physical distance is necessary in order to differentiate himself from his twin.
“It’s good to get space and exercise independence,” he said. “We have to separate at some point. We’re not going to be with each other for our entire lives, and college seems to be an appropriate time to start anew.
“For everyone, there’s an element of entering a fresh environment with completely new people. To have someone whom you know really well diminishes that element,” he added.
Though both their twins are not at Stanford, both Wheeler and Celentano noted that being a twin is an integral part of their identity. They use the twin experience as a conversation starter and enjoy observing and comparing other twin relationships with their own.
According to Basich, there is also something to be said for making friends with other twins whose experiences going to school with or without their twin have affected their undergraduate lives.
“Once you meet someone who is a twin, you don’t forget it,” she said.