53: Receiving the Letter

53: Receiving the Letter

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Teens Talk Getting In...To College

Receiving the Letter

If you don’t like the news, go out and make some of your own.

~Wes Nisker

Growing up in a small town in Westchester County, New York, I had felt pressure to be accepted to a prestigious college or university since the first day of my freshman year in high school. I worked hard to make honor roll, high honor roll, and principal’s list. I took every honors and advanced placement course that I could fit into my schedule. Joining clubs (and ultimately becoming president of them), making varsity teams, participating in community service projects, taking on part time jobs, as well as studying with an SAT tutor were all thought to be essential to gaining entrance to my “dream college.” But I also knew that in order to win over the admissions council, I would have to have something that would make me stand out, that would make the college feel like they needed me there.

So diving became a huge part of my life. I had been on my high school’s varsity diving team since eighth grade, and on various club teams since I was about nine years old. I was captain my senior year, and had done exceptionally well on both my club and high school team. I didn’t wait for diving coaches to approach me when choosing which schools I wanted to apply to. No, I did it the old fashioned way. I spent hours poring over Barron’s college books, and after making a carefully constructed list of my favorite colleges, I drove up and down the entire East Coast with my parents, visiting each and every one of them. They ranged in size, Division I to Division III, and soon I had used up all of my allotted overnight college visits, resulting in a handful of coaches promising me admission and scholarships to their schools. By the time September of my senior year rolled around, I had fallen in love with one small, prestigious college in upstate New York. After having been assured that there was a spot on the team with my name on it, I applied to the school, Early Decision of course, and waited the seemingly endless two months to hear back.

I remember the day I received my letter. I had spent the twenty-four hours leading up to it analyzing every detail of my high school career, thinking of the countless hours I had put into being the Editor in Chief of my high school yearbook, secretary of the math honors society, captain of the diving team, treasurer of peer mediation, all my volunteer work, and every final exam grade I had worked my butt off for. I was positive that I deserved to get in. I was beyond anxious. Was I going to collect the big brown package, or the thin white envelope? The pressure was almost too much.

When I opened my mailbox, my heart sunk to the ground. It was a meek little envelope, and when I tore it open to see if I had even snagged a spot on the waiting list, I found I was fully rejected. It was a crushing blow. I sat around for a day sulking, thinking I did something wrong, or that I hadn’t worked hard enough, and of everybody I thought that I was letting down.

I thought of my two best friends who had both gotten into the same liberal arts college in Pennsylvania, Early Decision, the day before. How was I supposed to tell them I was denied? But they were more than understanding and supportive, and made me realize that maybe the school was too small for me anyway. I had lived in a small environment my entire life. Maybe I had other options that I wasn’t even considering.

A week went by, and I continued my application process. I had to put things into perspective: I was a great student, I did everything I could, I applied to a dozen excellent schools, and one was bound to take me. How was I to know for sure that my original top choice was just right for me? I didn’t attend the college; I just did a simple overnight, and one night couldn’t predict my entire college experience.

As it turns out, I was accepted into a highly regarded state university which holds an equal, if not greater, reputation than my “dream school.” And the best part was, I wasn’t even accepted because of athletics. I applied to the school solely based upon academics. Soon I visited the University, and found that I loved it even more than the small college I had my hopes set on. Luckily, I had found the motivation to continue my application process, squeeze out a few last minute schools, and got into one of the best that I had applied to. Now I can’t wait to attend college this coming fall.

~Jacqueline Palma

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