Everyone has that dream school they grew up telling themselves they were going to go to.
Maybe it was one of your parents’ alma maters. Similar to myself, you grew up in their school sweatshirts, t-shirts and hand-me-down stories of the best four years of their lives.
Maybe it was an Ivy League or a different prestigious school that you wanted to go to. If accepted, you could make your parents proud and prove how smart you are.
Whatever the case may be, it’s really easy to become invested in going to a certain school, especially once you hit high school and applying becomes a reality. However, it’s really easy for all of that reality to come crashing down once you get, or don’t get your acceptance letters.
Like many high school seniors, I applied to a variety of schools, but I only really cared about one. I knew I wanted to go to my mom’s alma mater, regardless of my major or what I wanted to do in the future. As I grew older, I was continually gifted her school’s college gear, and even my dogs wore jerseys from their famous football team. I was convinced that this was the right place for me, the only place for me. This is where I would thrive, transforming into the best version of myself and a successful student.
My future college was one of the last schools to send out their letters, and the day they finally came, I sprinted towards the mail, bringing the envelope back to my parents with shaky hands. As I tore open the envelope, my parents stood beside me with their hands on my shoulders, trying to convince me that I had nothing to worry about because of my grades and legacy.
My eyes frantically scanned the page as I searched for the words “congratulations” or “accepted,” the knot in my stomach growing ever more painful. Instead, my heart sank into my stomach as I read the words “We regret to inform you that you have not been granted admission.” My parents’ smiles grew more fixed as they watched my shaking hands bring the letter closer to my face, reading the paper over and over again with increasing desperation. Finally, their fixed smiles turned to expressions of worry as they saw tears well in my eyes as I frantically continued to search the letter for an acceptance that wasn’t there.
With tears streaming down my face. I wordlessly handed the letter to my parents as they scanned the paper over and over again. Over the course of the next week, I would cry as if I had lost my best friend, tearing down the posters of the school hanging in my room and handing my gear to my mom in shame. My parents tried to console me with stories of other kids who were not accepted, telling me they were still proud of me, and then finally resorting to telling me that I could still transfer to the school after a year somewhere else.
However, none of that mattered to me. With swollen red eyes, I would scroll through Facebook, seeing everyone’s happy posts about getting into their dream school. I felt like a part of my identity had been ripped away from me, and I didn’t know how to accept going to a different school. Not only that, but I felt personally rejected by that school. It felt like I wasn’t good enough, or there was something wrong with me.
It took me a long time to learn, but I eventually realized this: your rejection is not a reflection of who you are as a person. There is no way an admissions director can learn everything about you in a few personal essays and an application. It doesn’t matter if you poured your heart and soul into your application; it’s just a piece of paper, and no one will ever be able to know you from that, or your GPA, for that matter. Your test scores and grades do not reflect your self worth. Ultimately, the college you go to is just a stepping stone for your profession. It doesn’t define how much money you will end up making or how smart you are.
Once I began considering my other acceptances, I did a lot of research to decide which school would be best for me. This time, I actually took the time to see what each school had offered me instead of looking at them as back-ups or the next best options. I was so scared that I had jeopardized my future by picking schools I didn’t care about because I was relying on one acceptance letter.
Instead, I found a school that I fell in love with, and I couldn’t have been more excited. After nearly a year at Penn State, I can say with complete confidence that I am at the best place for me. Although it wasn’t where I thought I would originally end up, everything from the atmosphere to the classes are exactly what I was looking for in a college. I joined the marching band, made the Dean’s list and made friends I know I’ll have for the rest of my life. During breaks from school, I find myself daydreaming about being able to return, spending time with my friends, walking through my beautiful campus and truly being at home. Penn State is my dream school, and I can say with absolute certainty that I wouldn’t have been as happy at my mom’s alma mater.
Alexander Graham Bell once said, “When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.”
As I look around me at the school I now call home, all I can think is “Thank goodness. I’m so, so happy.”
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