High school for me could be summed up with these words: The struggle was real. But because I was the insane Asian that barely slept so I could bother my college counselor at 7:30 a.m. every day and apparently never went home, I don’t exactly get to say that. Rather, I put the pressure on myself to go the extra mile to be an academic scholar. But the fact is, those tears and burned calories were well worth it. Let me tell you why.
1. Having big dreams makes you realize that you never settle for “good enough.”
My dream school was an Ivy League that starts with the letter H. That being said, it was impossible to have senioritis. If I wanted to be a student at this university, I was going to need to retake the SAT Math II, keep my GPA at 4.03 and prepare for the interview like my life depended on it. Although I put the pressure on myself by applying through Questbridge (10/10 would recommend by the way), I realized through my struggles in AP calculus and having my counselor send materials after materials that I was being grounded.
Put simply, I had a passion to attend said university back on June 18, 2016 and was going to do anything I could to fulfill my words. This process showed me that I may have been “good enough” for any of the 26 schools I applied to, but if I didn’t work hard enough to fix my college essays, I wasn’t good enough in my own eyes. You’re going to meet people that don’t settle for “good enough” at any college. Meet them head-on and be equally overachieving friends. Set those huge dreams; the obstacles you face to get to where you are now really will change you for the better, whether you achieved the dream or not.
2. Failures really do make you stronger.
Now it’s time to drop the trite saying: "It’s not the destination that’s important, it’s the journey." Spoiler alert: I didn’t get into my dream school, even after nine interviews, five months of revising and crying over college supplements and not succumbing to senioritis. Yes, I had the tendency to quantify my efforts, to use numbers when I thought about how much I did throughout the year, but that is meaningless.
Just because my dream was “crushed" did not mean that all my tears, work and emotions were invalidated. The constructive criticism about my writing did knock me down a few times but clearly, if I wanted to go to college, I was going to stand back up and show these people (who most certainly had faith in me) that I can create a representation of myself. In fact, it was because of all those factors that went into staying up into the wee hours of the night revising my common app essay three times that I was able to say, “I did everything I could.” I didn’t regret anything because the overachiever in me did everything it could to show these schools my voice. There is literally nothing I would have done any differently and that is why I was satisfied with where I stand today. Someone that was once scared to have any of her writing critiqued is now a part of a community of writers. Look at that.
3. You meet people that are inspiring to be around.
Literally everything becomes an amazing experience when you put the hard work in. I thought that at one point, all my efforts were in vain because no one recognized how late I stayed up to get assignments in on time while finalizing applications. But in actuality, people do see you; I met people that were even more insane than I was on Questbridge, and that gave me even more of a reason to be an encouraging peer. They were kind, loving and knew when to scare me about supplement deadlines.
You may be thinking, “Why don’t you feel even smaller in a community of such smart people?” You learn this later in life, kids. Don’t be intimidated by intelligent people because if you were accepted to the same program, you have something to add as well. There is no superiority when you’re in a Facebook group where everyone is shouting out confessions of love to people across the nation. You really do meet people that are similar to yourself, so take the time to find out your limits, interests and of course, passions. Seriously, if you believe in a cause, go for it because it will get you somewhere, literally or figuratively.
4. When you want something so badly, you develop a voice.
I cannot stress how important it is to improve your communication skills because even if you work hard, you can still be hesitant to voice your opinions. If you give everything your 110 percent, then you truly will develop your own way of accomplishing goals and thereby, have your own persona. Yes, the criticism was harsh on my unoriginal first common app essay, but at one point, I realized there were parts I wanted to keep, even if the adults didn’t. That’s what made the essay mine and I was not going to suppress my opinion to make a “perfect essay.” Your work is truly your work. Criticism is not meant to make your writing appear how someone else wants it but is meant to improve the work in your style.
Don’t let anyone’s words make you feel belittled. If you do give everything your 110 percent (eat that whole cake, run that hour, stay up until 4 a.m. and bother all those professors), your hard work will be rewarded. Have your own opinions and don’t ever feel that you won’t make friends because your life is k-pop or k-dramas (#noshame). You will be just fine. You will meet people that make you feel secure and comfortable. Become your own bold standard and go about life knowing that it is what you make of it.
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