55: Meant To Be

55: Meant To Be

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

Meant To Be

Patience is the ability to count down before you blast off.

~Author Unknown

I’d been crying for hours.

Ever since I got my thin envelope from Harvard, my first choice college, I’d felt like my world had fallen out from under me. I threw myself on my bed and sobbed until I finally ran out of tears. Worse than the most agonizing breakup or the most violent fight with my best friend, my Harvard rejection tore my world apart. I felt like my future had been taken away from me—before I’d even had the chance to have a taste of what it could be.

I’d set my heart on going to college only a few years earlier. A conversation with my guidance counselor at school had opened my eyes to the world of possibilities that college had to offer me. I could go across the country — or around the world. I could learn whatever I wanted. I could build a future for myself that before I could have only dreamed about.

You see, my high school—a large, underfunded, public school in Southern California—wasn’t exactly a feeder school. Only about half of the freshmen who entered each year would make it all the way to graduation day and, of those, only a handful went to a four year university. Before this conversation, I figured I’d maybe go to a community college for a few years, then get a job in town, never venturing more than a few miles from home. My world felt small and inescapable.

But college felt like the way to create a different destiny for myself. It was my way to break away from what I’d previously thought I could be and try for something so much more. I set my sights on the best, Harvard, and spent the next three years turning myself into the ideal Harvard candidate. Excellent grades, great test scores, and a perfect mix of extracurricular accomplishments. All I needed was an acceptance letter and a scholarship.

A few years of hard work later, here I was, crying on my bed, my world shattered by a little envelope containing only one piece of paper.

My mom came into my room and sat on the edge of my bed. “Why are you crying so hard? It’s only one school.”

“You don’t understand!” I wailed. Harvard embodied everything I’d always dreamt of, and now it was officially out of my reach.

“You applied to six other schools, I’m sure you’ll get into one of them. You’re so smart and you’ve done so well. Any of them will be lucky to have you.”

“But, they’re not Harvard.”

“Why do you want to go to Harvard so badly anyway?” she asked.

I was quiet for a moment. It was like I was really thinking about it for the first time. “Because, it’s the best, I guess.”

“But, maybe it’s not the best for you. I know you’ll get into the one that’s right for you.” My mom is a big believer in fate and, at that moment, so was I. Maybe I’d gotten carried away in all the hype around Harvard.

Six days later, on March 31st, I’d been rejected by three schools (including my infamous Harvard rejection) and accepted to three more, but without enough financial aid for any of them to be a viable option.

I had one school left: The Johns Hopkins University. Deep down, I knew that this had to be it. This had to be the school I was supposed to go to. My mom had to be right. I tried not to stress and to focus all my energy on visualizing that fat envelope with its acceptance letter and big financial aid package. I tried to believe in the power of positive thinking.

April 5th came and I still hadn’t heard from Hopkins. Where was my letter? All my friends were starting to make plans for the next year and I was still waiting by the mailbox, praying that I wouldn’t be left behind.

April 6th: still nothing. My mom told me to relax, it would come. She too believed that this last school would be the answer to our prayers. It had to be.

On April 7th, I woke up early, too stressed to sleep in, even though it was the middle of Spring Break. This had to be the day. I paced the house, waiting for the sound of the mailman driving down my cul-de-sac.

Finally, at 2 P.M., I heard him. I walked slowly to the mailbox, almost afraid of what I might find. Doubts clouded my mind, what if this weren’t my fate? What if I couldn’t go to college?

I reached in and pulled out the stack of mail. Magazines and bills, all piled on top of a big, white envelope. My heart stopped. It was from Hopkins.

I almost passed out. It was a big envelope. I was in. But, of course, for me that was only half of the equation. I’d gotten into three schools already, but none gave me enough financial aid to actually attend.

I ripped open the envelope and looked inside.

Full scholarship.

I screamed and cried all at once. My mom was right. Some things are meant to be.

~Jennifer Lee Johnson


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