I applied to 11 colleges. 6 of them were reaches. I was accepted to 3- and shocked. On paper, I seemed like the perfect candidate for an elite college: I had perfect grades, a perfect ACT score, 5's on all AP exams, and leadership positions a mile long. I was an accomplished debater and on the editorial board of yearbook team. I was a dancer too! I was well-liked within my community and never completed activities just to add them to my resume. I don't consider myself snooty or aloof, and I honestly believe my essays reflected my kindred spirit. I was offered interviews with all of the elite colleges, and I received emails from my interviewers telling me that I had done a great job and that they had recommended me to be accepted. I was the perfect candidate.
Imagine my surprise when I opened email after email of rejections and waitlist options. I was terrified, to be honest. I began to doubt myself, my strengths, and my abilities to create a positive change. Could admissions officers not see that I wanted to make a change in the world, and getting an Ivy League education would help me do that? Couldn’t they see that I would make their community better and more vibrant? Sure, I was no teen prodigy, but the activities I participated in mattered. They made differences in my community. I didn’t think that it was necessary to literally change the world at such a young age, but it seems now that it is. If you're a good person, love your family and friends and put them first, and want to start with small changes with your community, that's not enough anymore.
After the initial wave of shock passed, I became angry. At the college counselors at school for telling me I had a chance, at the admissions officers who thought I wasn’t good enough for them, and at myself. Mostly at myself. I had wasted so many of my teenage years attaining perfect grades, studying, managing my clubs and hobbies, rehearsing at dance classes, and playing sports. Why did it even matter that I got a perfect ACT score - which I had been so proud of only a month before- if it didn’t help me get into college? I began to think that I wasted my time with school, and essays, and activities in general. Needless to say, I was a little depressed.
Then came the denial. I subtly convinced myself that maybe there had been a mix-up, that they had sent the rejection letters to the wrong person, and they did want me. For this reason, I avoided making a decision about where I would study in the fall. Honestly, I still had three pretty amazing colleges to choose from, but I was just too blinded to realize that at the time. I just kept wondering: why wasn’t I good enough? What did other teenagers have that I didn’t? Were my essays not interesting enough? I wrote about two of the things that matter most to me: travelling and books. I thought that this was the most accurate representation of my personality, but maybe they thought I was too nerdy? [as a side note: I was prom queen, so it's not like I shut myself in a room and read all day. But that's just not something you include on a college application, so they never saw that side of me.] I just don't know what went wrong. What was wrong with me?
Then, I came to a realization: maybe I didn’t get accepted into any of those colleges because I secretly didn’t want to go. I received my first acceptance in January- to a great college right in my backyard that I loved when I toured. However, it wasn’t an Ivy. And for a while, that was the only thing that I could think about. Reflecting back now, I think I decided in January that this is the college I wanted to be at, because it was close to my family, it was affordable, and I knew I would feel at home there. And there was also the issue of my serious boyfriend. And I know, it sounds terrible that I would base such an important decision off of a boy because #girlpower, but this was different. It wasn’t that I wanted to go to the same school as him, because we still might not end up going to the same place, but I just didn’t want to rope myself into a decision without waiting to see what would happen to our relationship in college. This is why I didn’t apply Early Decision anywhere. Had I applied early, I believe I would've had a much higher chance of getting into one of my "reach" colleges. Oh well. Everything happens for a reason, right?
I think I've finally come to peace with this journey. Sure, it sucks that I didn’t get accepted to any of the colleges that I thought I would be perfect for, but maybe this is for the better. I feel more confident in my abilities again and I honestly believe that I'm going to make a positive impact in the world, regardless of where I go for my undergraduate degree. And maybe, yeah, my ACT scores and my incredible transcript will all wash away when I start college in the fall, but so will the old me. The me that believed I was defined by who accepted me and who didn’t. I know I'm going to do great things, and I know that I can make a new path for myself.
Cover Image By Philipp Lublasser/Unsplash.com