The fall of senior year is a stressful time. College applications are due, grades still matter, financial aid is becoming a thing and no one gives you a second to breathe. It can be overwhelming. In the middle of all this instability and stress, it can be easy to pick one particular college to set your heart on. It’s a typical cycle- you sign up for the emails, you read the whole website, you tour at least once, you perfect your essays, you buy a sweatshirt and you plan your whole life. Everything is structured and has a plan. You are going to graduate and go to that college and start the rest of your life, no matter how senior year plays out.
But then reality hits. You get a letter in the mail one day, or an email that says to check your online portal. It says your admissions decision is available. You tug at the sleeves of your new sweatshirt and take a nervous breath. This is the moment you’ve been looking forward to since the application process started. This is the chance to finalize all the plans you’ve been making for the last few months. You tear open the envelope and pull out the paper; the suspense is physically painful. Your parents gather around excitedly. You open the letter and… it’s a rejection.
First, you think you read it wrong. How could they say no, you were made for this school. Your family offers hugs, but they’re as shocked as you are. You don’t even know how to feel, it’s as if your entire future has crashed down around you. Maybe you cry, maybe you’re just numb. You try to shrug it off, but it still hurts. How are you going to face your friends and tell them the school you’ve been obsessed with for the last six months doesn’t want you back? It’s embarrassing; now you have to rely on backup schools you don’t even like. Life. Is. Awful.
It’s been a few weeks now, and it’s starting to hurt a little less. You’ve deleted the website from your favorites and the decision letter is tucked away somewhere where you don’t look at it. Now, you’re starting to actually look at your backup schools and what they have to offer. Browsing through website after website, you start to notice the good things about the other schools. The thing is, you were blinded before, and you’re starting to see it. You loved your dream school so much that you decided that every other school was inadequate; you didn’t even really look. Other colleges are starting to come out of the framework and you start to see that maybe, just maybe, you could succeed somewhere else. Maybe you could build a different future, in a different city, in a different program. Maybe that first school wasn’t so great after all.
It’s April now. You’ve got a pile of acceptance letters sitting on your kitchen counter. You remember that sinking feeling when you got that first letter. Now, you have so many choices for your future. You get to decide what you want. One school is in your favorite city, but the program isn’t fantastic. Another has the program you want, but the financial aid just isn’t there. And then there’s your local state school, mediocre and affordable. Suddenly, there’s no set path for your future, and, for the first time, that’s actually OK. It’s exciting to make decisions and to consider the unexpected. Maybe that rejection wasn’t so bad after all.
It’s August. You’re packing your things, getting ready to leave and go out on your own. You open a drawer and pull out the rejection letter you couldn’t bear to throw away back when you got it. You read it one more time, for old time’s sake. There’s a small feeling in the pit of your stomach when you remember the dreams you had. But then you smile and you almost want to say “thank you” to that college. Thank you for the rejection. Thank you for shattering my perfect future and opening my eyes. Thank you for making me think outside the box and actually choose a school around what I wanted, not around what they wanted me to be. Thank you for the reality check. Thank you for the lesson in rejection. You learned so much from this; you learned how to handle being told no, you learned how to survive your world falling apart, but, most importantly, you learned to make the best of it. Now, here you are, moving in to the school you’ve fallen in love with, ready to start the next chapter of your life. You have no doubts or what if’s because you had all your options to choose from. You did it, and you have that rejection letter to thank.
Lead Image Credit: Sam Johnson