A week from now, I’ll be moving into my college dorm room. And while I’m extremely excited to begin this stage of my life, I’m not exactly where year-ago-me thought I would be. I’m writing this post because I think it’s something year-ago-me (and so many of my friends) needed to hear.
To all of the future seniors: DON’T LIMIT YOUR VALUE TO SCHOOLS YOU GET ACCEPTED TO.
Senior year was a weird sort of hell to me because of how completely ill-equipped I was for rejection letters from my top colleges. Sure, leading up to March, I was plagued by constant fear and anxiety about not being good enough for these schools with their 7% acceptance rates, but I still had a part of my mind that said I would be one of those 7%. In seventh grade, I decided that my dream school was Columbia University and I would do whatever it took to get there. My path changed in countless ways from that time, but I was always unwavering about the end goal.
I thought that I did everything right. (I know that I could have been better, and so many people are better but still!) I was a National Merit Finalist; won Editor of the Year for my school newspaper that won best in state 5 years in a row at the state journalism convention; got numerous state and national awards for writing; went to state for cross country and track for 3 years; had a part-time job in my field of interest; ran this blog; did Model UN; had a 34 on the ACT; and other things. That’s not to brag, but it’s to say I worked my butt off for four years and had the qualifications to prove it. Senior year, I spent an hour a day on college applications for four months, revising essay after essay until I believed they were Ivy League Acceptable.
When I was waitlisted at Columbia, I was heartbroken. Realistically, I had known it was a long shot, that there are way more qualified applicants than spots in each class. My parents kept telling me this, but it didn’t feel comforting. It felt so personal. I felt diminished, like I wasn't really smart or accomplished enough to achieve what I wanted.
I’m writing about this topic not because I’m personally bitter but because so many of my ridiculously smart, talented, accomplished friends were rejected from their top schools this year. They’re still going to great colleges and are doubtless going to do incredible things with those four years, but it was saddening to watch their heartbreak, to watch their self-worth diminish because of this rejection. It was even worse because I was simultaneously feeling it and knew how crushing it was.
Nobody warned us about this rejection and the feelings that came with it. We were only equipped with the knowledge of what it took to get accepted, and we did all of those things. It didn’t matter how many AP classes we took, how high our standardized test scores were, how involved we were; we were still rejected from the schools we worked so hard for. And after that possibly prolonged grieving period, we’re all going our own ways, and we’re going to be okay.
So, upcoming seniors, please separate your self-worth from your acceptance/ rejections list. You are so much more than that, and rejections don't determine your intelligence or your capacity for success.