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Oct 09 2017
by Erela Datuowei

How I Overcame The Pressure to Excel During the College Application Process

By Erela Datuowei - Oct 09 2017
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“Where are you going?” If I had a dime for every time I have been asked that in the last year, I’d actually be able to pay for college. The implications that came along with that question stretched far beyond just the location of the next four years of my life.

People were really asking me, “What colleges are you applying to,” “What do you want to major in?” and “How are you going to pay for it?” The answers were: a lot, pharmacy and I don't know. I had spent years up until that point doing what I thought would get me where I wanted to be: taking the expected courses, passing the required tests and pumping out hours of community service as I juggled various sports and academic teams. Suddenly, it was March 1st and I found out if it was all worth it.

I applied to 30 colleges and universities, and I got into all my safety colleges, but that wasn't what I wanted. Your safeties were your safeties for a reason. They were a last resort left for the worst case scenario. Your safeties were the opening act and our reaches were the main event.

So it began, the real testament of my blood, sweat and tears. I looked through email after email and portal after portal as I was rejected one by one by my top picks. I started of with one rejection and thought, “I don’t want to go to Maine anyway.” I got through the fifth rejection and thought, “Their loss.” I had made it through 11 of my 15 decisions when I shut off my computer and decided my expectations couldn't take one more rejection. I had calculated my odds and decided it wasn't worth total obliteration of my self-worth to see another tag line explaining the diversity of the applicant pool and the generic apologies that came with it.

It was roughly 4:32 p.m., and a new set of questions began to brew in my head. “Was I not good enough?” “Why did I suffer through AP Statistics if it didn’t better my chances of an acceptance statistically?” and “If I didn’t get in, then who did?”

I had kept up four years of academic appearances, but no one had ever told me what face to put on when I got slammed with rejection. It was an entirely new territory that left me out of my element and grasping for a lifeline.

Who was I supposed to tell that I wasn’t good enough? My family saw me as the golden child. My counselor thought I had a guaranteed slot. My friends got into Princeton. For me, rejection was a solo battle. It left me derailed and unsure of myself. I went through a period of slight depression. I was barely holding it together and nothing seemed to matter. I fell into a strange grieving period complete with anger, bargaining and eventual resignation to the fact that I just wasn’t a fit.

I had high expectations that fell through. I had never stopped to think about the possibility of failure because in my mind, I was a perfect candidate. I had done it all according to the book and had an interesting personal story arc to back it up. Rejection was hard, but it opened up a space for introspection about myself. I didn't get the decisions I wanted, but they didn't make me any less of a person or diminish my worth. So I kept on doing what I always had been: excelling.

Ironically enough, a few days later, I received an acceptance letter from my first rank pick. It was one of the four I had decided not to check. Sometimes things work out, but in the case that they don't, I have learned to keep moving and not let it deter me.

Lead Image Credit: Pixabay

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Erela Datuowei - Brooklyn College

I am a freshman at the University of Southern California on a Pre-Pharmacy track minoring in French. In search of diversity and equity in the world.

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