Going into college application season in the winter of 2013, I had my heart set on two places: Georgetown and the University of Chicago. I had visited Georgetown in the spring of my junior year, and loved everything about the place. One particularly vivid memory that stays with me to this day, involves the handwritten sign in the window of a dorm room: “Welcome to the best place on earth.”
UChicago may have been unfortunately close to home and labeled “where the fun goes to die”, but I loved it just as much. Where else was it cool get into a discussion with someone you’d never met before about the advantages and disadvantages of eliminating the time zones? And damn it, if I couldn’t go to Hogwarts, I would go to the next best place.For several months, it was rare to see me without a certain gray Georgetown pullover. I worked for hours apiece on my essays for both of those schools. I certainly put more into those pieces of writing than any other I’d ever written.
Within the space of three days in December of 2013, exactly a year ago this week, I was deferred from both of them, and then rejected, four months later.
What are you supposed to do when you’re denied the very thing you pour your heart into for months? For me, it was to sit at my desk on a cold Wednesday night and sob for the better part of an hour.
A plethora of questions ran, unending, through my mind. What had I screwed up? I had shown as much interest as I could – why wasn’t that enough? Why did other people get in when I didn’t? What had they done better than me?
And, above all, why didn’t they want me?
Of course, I had to drag myself to school next day. And the day after that. And a debate tournament that weekend. As much as it felt like it did, life didn’t end when I didn’t get into the school of my dreams.
Life certainly didn’t end when I had to rush to finish several other college applications that I hadn’t finished, because I’d been counting on getting into one of those early schools. Every essay I finished for the following two weeks felt like a slap in the face, a message that you’re doing this because you’re not good enough.
While I tried to avoid letting the opinions of others get to me, it was less than fun to have to say “No, I got deferred, unfortunately”, when anyone asked me whether I’d gotten into the schools that I’d been talking about all year.
April rolled around, and I got into college. I committed to a fantastic school, and now I’m a third through my first year. Chances are, if you’re reading this, you’ve either gone through the college process or are going through it now. You probably have a dream school, a top choice, whatever you want to call it. This post is for people who didn’t get in to that school.
Know that you are not the first to experience what you have, and you will not be the last. There’s me, of course, and my high school’s student body president, who was rejected from every college he applied to, except for one.
This doesn’t ease your pain much, but it does mean there are others who have felt what you’re feeling. And they’ll all tell you the same thing: you’re going to be fine.
You’ll get into college. You’ll go to college. You’ll have fun at college.
You’ll stay up late in your school’s vast library, finishing a 10-page essay for class you pretend to hate but really love. You’ll join any number of clubs that you pretend to love but really hate. You’ll become inseparable with the friends you make on your floor.
And when you look back at your senior year of high school this time next year, you probably will remember not getting into that college. It doesn’t go away that easily. But you’ll remember it not with anger or pain, but with a tinge of nostalgia, a sprinkle of “if only”, and maybe a hint of regret.
Then you’ll look up at your new college friends, laugh (or maybe grumble) about the mediocre food you’re eating in the dining hall, and forget all about it again.
by Christopher Callahan