Reflecting on My College Admissions Journey

If you know me personally, you’ll know that I am an academically motivated person. I invest a lot of time into my grades and I take immense pride in my scholastic achievements.

My senior year, however, has been an emotional rollercoaster filled with college acceptances, rejections, and waitlists.

From August to December – also known as the college application season – I applied as a journalism major to six universities: the University of Southern California, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, New York University, Emerson College, Syracuse University, and Northwestern University. All six universities have phenomenal journalism programs and have educated famous alumni like Megyn Kelly, Lady Gaga, JD Salinger, “Weird Al” Yankovic, Stephen Colbert, and many others.

At the close of the college admissions season, I got accepted to Emerson College and Cal Poly SLO; waitlisted from New York University and Syracuse University; and rejected from Northwestern University and University of Southern California (my top-choice school).

I’ll admit: I was devastated. I cried a lot. I’d toured USC, had an admissions interview there, and even kept in touch with my USC admissions counselor often.

The heartbreak I’d felt when I opened my rejection letter from USC will forever be scarred into my brain. I spent several hours bawling my eyes out afterward, being comforted by my mom and boyfriend as we watched movies together to distract me from the disheartening fact that I will not be attending my dream school, despite my prolonged expectations.

I questioned my value as a student multiple times. In fact I even wondered, “Was I just not good enough?” I constantly asked myself questions like, “What could I have done to get accepted?”.

To make matters worse, many of my peers were receiving zero rejection letters. Zero. Zilch. Nada.

Comparing myself to my closest friends, I soon realized that I had to take a break from it all. I (temporarily) deleted Twitter and Snapchat. I refused to talk about college admissions with anyone. And when the topic resurfaced, I would desperately find ways to avoid the question, “Which schools did you get into?”, or even worse, “Did you get into your dream school?”.

I was crushed. The girl who was valedictorian at her high school, upheld a 4.5 GPA, excelled in almost every AP/Honors course she took, completed hours upon hours of community service, and tackled multiple leadership positions was an embarrassment to the educators and students who had so much faith in her. I was disappointed not by the fact that I had been rejected and waitlisted from two-thirds of the colleges I applied to, but mostly by the fact that I had disappointed those around me, especially my favorite teachers and close friends.

One day as I scrolled through Facebook, I stumbled across a group page that caught my attention: “Cal Poly SLO Class of 2022”. Reluctantly I clicked on it and requested to join the group.

Upon being accepted into the Facebook group, I saw many bright, fresh faces who were pumped to start their new life in San Luis Obispo this upcoming fall. Everybody introduced themselves and shared photos of themselves performing in their school’s band, hanging out at the beach with their friends, drinking icy beverages in Mexico, competing in fencing and horseback riding, posing with their dates for homecoming, and bonding with their furry friends.

Compelled by the number of welcoming students in the group, I decided to introduce myself as well. Within hours of posting an introductory message, a number of admitted and current Cal Poly students reached out to me asking if I would be willing to be their roommate, wanting to know more about me, and assuring me that I could come to them if I had any questions.

Soon I found myself in a community filled with positivity, academic ambition, and excitement for the next chapter in their lives. I’ve made friends through this group who are incredibly supportive and who can empathize with the sting of being rejected by their top-choice university.

This, however, is just the beginning. I will be touring Cal Poly SLO’s campus next weekend for their PolyCultural Weekend and doing more research as I go.

To any current high school senior who has been rejected, waitlisted, or deferred from their first-choice college, remember me. I am in your shoes. I know the heartache that comes with being rejected. I know how it feels to anxiously wait for the mailman to drop off the college admissions decision letter, for the admissions portal to load, for the email that either greets you with “Congratulations!” or “We regret to inform you…”. I know the tinge of disappointment in your family’s face when you tell them you were denied admission.

If you’ve been rejected, take a deep breath. Relax. Thousands of equally qualified applicants are being denied all over the nation simply due to the intense competition. Know that acceptances or rejections (in college and in life) will never define your work ethic or your value as a human being. Whatever the admissions counselors may have ruled does not directly correlate with your accomplishments throughout high school. You are a wonderful, multi-faceted student who has a glistening future, regardless of which schools admitted or denied you.

Let yourself feel upset. Vent your feelings out to your close friends and family. Let other people know if you prefer not to talk about it. Cry if you need to, especially if this was a school you really wanted to attend.

After your mourning period, however, you’ve got to pick yourself back up. Try shifting your focus by doing activities that fill you with joy and surrounding yourself with your loved ones. Pick up a new hobby, like painting or cooking. Allow your creativity to flow through you and to give you strength through this time.

Most importantly, remind yourself that you are worth it. Yes, you may have gotten rejected, but you are set to go on a different path than the one you were desperately wishing to tread upon. It may be a saddening revelation, but it should relieve you. The stress you’ve been enduring for the past three or more months is finally over, and now you have an idea of the paths and opportunities set before you. Even if you got rejected from all the universities you applied to, you can choose to study at community college for two years and transfer afterward, or you can take a gap year. Regardless of the college admissions decisions you received, you still possess the freedom to do anything with your education and your future, which is a powerful, yet liberating fact.

If you are a current high school underclassman, don’t let this blog post discourage you. As a matter of fact, let it push you to thrive as a student, leader, and aspiring college undergrad. If you did your best throughout high school and end up getting rejected by your top-choice college, know that the academic competition is increasing dramatically and that admissions decisions are not a reflection of your self-worth. Rest assured that you worked your hardest in high school and that you put your best foot forward on your college apps – and that is what matters the most.

As for me, I have committed to Cal Poly SLO as a journalism major and political science minor. While at SLO, I want to study abroad in Spain and obtain some broadcast experience at an internship or by job shadowing. After completing my undergraduate degree, I plan on obtaining a master’s at grad school, wherever that may be. I will worry about that when the time comes.

Good luck to all the seniors deciding where to go for college for Fall 2018! I cannot wait to be a Mustang!

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