I never considered myself to be someone who would have a top choice school. Not because I thought having one was silly, but because I am painfully indecisive. And, knowing at least this about myself, I considered early decision to be off the table.
My assumption was, of course, incorrect. When I visited Hamilton College, I knew that I wanted to spend the next four years on that campus. It was a reach in some ways, but palpable in others. So I set up an interview, beefed up my extracurriculars, worked hard (and then harder) on my essays and submitted my application under early decision.
A month later, I got my deferral. I was absolutely devastated. Even though it wasn’t a flat out rejection, I had never felt like a bigger failure in my life. After laying out everything I had ever achieved and everything that I cared about, they had basically said, “Eh, we could probably do better.” Or at least that was how I saw it.
The next day I went into a frenzy, sending out applications to schools I had never visited and barely heard of, but also praying that Hamilton would change their mind in April.
Over time, my need to go to Hamilton abated. I started to consider schools in a way that I hadn’t since stepping onto Hamilton’s campus, and the idea that I would “end up where I’m meant to be” stopped being a phrase that was repeated to me and became one I started to believe.
It had been a couple months and I was able to see with a little more clarity. My deferral wasn’t a rejection of the work I had done; it was a rejection of the work I had not done. I didn’t study hard for the SAT. I crammed more than I learned and while I had a few extracurriculars I loved, I didn’t work hard at a lot of them. I had wanted Hamilton so badly that I felt they had to want me just as much. But Newton’s law of equal and opposite reaction applies to motion, not the college process.
I know now how to work harder rather than to want harder. Not getting in was really rough, no two ways about it. But people had been sounding the alarm that I don’t work hard enough since the fifth grade (when I only did three homework assignments in the entire year). The problem was that I learned to ignore the alarm because it had always worked out. I didn’t pay too much attention in class and then I would study hard the night before, ace a test and forget it all the next day. It worked every time, until this time.
I started looking seriously at other schools again. Colorado College had accepted me for early action and I’d looked at it before, but only after I had my heart set on Hamilton. I flew out for the school's admitted students day and loved it. I loved the people, the professors and the place.
It was a little bit of a leap to take myself off Hamilton’s wait list without finding out if they ever did want me. It took a little bit of guts to pick a school halfway across the country instead of one within driving distance. It took a little faith to go to one of only three schools in the country using the block plan rather than a semester schedule. Regardless, I’m convinced that there is no school that I would be happier at than Colorado College. I had been blindly infatuated with Hamilton, but I’m in love with Colorado.
I didn’t get into Hamilton, but they still gave me some valuable lessons that I will carry with me the rest of my life. You are not just a list of achievements. You get what you earn, not what you want, no matter how badly you want it. Sometimes, everything you’ve done is not enough, and that’s OK. And most importantly, it all works out in the end, even if it’s not the way you expected.
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