For twins, the college process gets twice as complicated.

Photo by Carly Menker

When third-year Jacob Jordan and his identical twin brother Nathaniel started looking at colleges, they came to the same conclusion: There was no way they were going to the same school.

It wasn’t because they wanted dramatically different campuses or majors. In fact, they went on many of the same college tours and had very similar first impressions. They even both liked Northwestern. But Jacob and his brother wanted to have independent lives and identities, something they weren’t afforded growing up in Cape Elizabeth, Maine.

“Everyone just knew us as the Jordans,” Jacob says. “People would just call us Jordan instead of by our first names. Everything [Nathaniel] did, I was also judged by that. We were viewed as the same person because no one could tell us apart.”
When applying to college as a twin, there are double the visits, double the applications, double the acceptances and double the rejections, all in one household. College provides an opportunity to start fresh and develop a new identity for everyone. But for twins, who are often considered a pair until that point, the prospect of that opportunity weighs heavier.

Jacob applied early decision to Northwestern. Once he got in, it was decided: he was the twin that would be going there. His brother ended up at Grinnell College in Iowa. It was the first time in their lives that they were apart for more than two nights.

“It felt weird not having him around,” Jacob says. “But fall quarter of your freshman year is so overwhelming, and there’s so much going on, I didn’t have a lot of time to stop and think about that.”

Fourth-year Kyra Ramsey and her fraternal twin Madison always assumed they would end up at different schools, but for another reason: Kyra’s reach schools were her sister’s target schools. Kyra was accepted early decision to Northwestern. In the end, her sister was between Northwestern and Cornell.

“I think she chose Cornell because she wanted to go away from home,” says Kyra, a Wilmette native. “I never gave my input on what I wanted her to do, but I think I also wanted her to go away, just so we could see what life would be like.”

They were close, but they weren’t “joined-at-the-hip best friends,” as Kyra puts it. They keep in touch over the phone, but their hectic college schedules can make finding time to talk difficult. With her own college experience coming to a close, Kyra is curious about what her younger sisters, who are applying to college this year, are going to do — they’re also fraternal twins.

Second-year Leah Schulman and her identical twin Carly both applied and enrolled early decision, Leah at Northwestern and Carly at Vanderbilt. But when her sister was unhappy at Vanderbilt and began the process of transferring, Leah gave her blessing for Carly to apply to Northwestern.

“It [was] a very, very tough decision to make because we still wanted our own lives, wanted to be on our own, and I’d really established myself here,” Leah says. “At the end of the day, I really love it here, and I want her to have the same great college experience that I’ve had.”

Carly enrolled and started as a second-year this fall. She and Leah have worked to keep aspects of their lives autonomous from one another’s: Leah is in SESP while Carly is switching from Weinberg to Medill next quarter. They have joined different clubs and found their own communities, and the sisters have even taken it a step further.

“She dyed her hair dark brown to look different from me,” Leah says. “It actually kind of worked … but we have the same face. There’s nothing we can do about that.”
Second-years Patrick and Ryan Gridley were being recruited for varsity swimming as high school seniors, but they never visited schools at the same time to make sure they wouldn’t influence each other’s decisions. Ryan committed to Northwestern right after he visited. Patrick committed the next weekend.

“I knew we were taking different visits, but I had a feeling that we were both going to like the same stuff,” Patrick says. “It just depended whether the school wanted both of us or one of us.”

The Gridleys are both biology majors, so in addition to spending a lot of time together at swim practice, they take similar classes. But the two don’t live together and have made different groups of friends outside of the pool.

They do have one rule: If someone mistakes one for the other twin on campus, they have to say hi.

Second-years Megan and Stephanie Yaur initially made efforts to branch out when they came to Northwestern. They were in different majors in their first year, with Megan studying applied math and Stephanie studying computer science, and lived separately with roommates they found on Facebook. But after Megan switched her major to computer science and began to spend a lot of time in Stephanie’s room anyway, it made sense for them to move in together this year.

“It’s a lot more convenient to just share everything,” Megan says. “We can work together on stuff or just go to class together.”

But with that close proximity comes the added challenge of trying to break out of the pattern of similarity they’ve had since high school. Megan has been joining clubs on her own, but it can be difficult to feel differentiated from Stephanie.

“I kind of wish we didn’t go to the same school now,” Megan says. “‘A lot of the time, people ask us, ‘What’s the difference between you two?’ ... I don’t want to make it sound bad that we’re twins at the same school. I still like it very much. I’d just say, I think that most twins go to different colleges for a reason.”

Jacob Jordan just visited his brother at Grinnell for the first time this year. His brother visited him for Dillo Day in 2018 and hasn’t come back since. They want to maintain their independence, even if it means they don’t see each other as often, especially because their breaks don’t always line up. The next time they visit each other’s schools, it will likely be for graduation. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t still close.

“We still text every day,” Jacob says. “We keep connected that way.”

Photo courtesy of Kyra Ramsey