57: Lilacs and the Waiting List

57: Lilacs and the Waiting List

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

Lilacs and the Waiting List

Keep on asking, and you will be given what you ask for. Keep on looking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened.

~Matthew 7:7-8

I could feel my face wilt into a disappointed grimace. The letter from Holy Cross, the one school I really wanted to attend, had come in a dreaded small envelope. By April of my senior year, I could clearly recognized what the envelope size conveyed about its contents — large manila envelopes, full and ripe with promise, were the heralds of glorious acceptances, while the thin, white business envelopes were forerunners to the dismissing lines, “We regret to inform you...”

I sighed as I began to slowly ease open the flap, trying to delay the inevitable as long as possible. True, my college counselor had told me that Holy Cross was a “reach” school, and based on my high school grades I would sit in the bottom 25% of my class all four years if I managed to get in. “But Holy Cross is my school,” I had argued. “That is where I want to be.” He had smiled skeptically and turned to schools that were more in my “range.”

Holy Cross had been the only school I really wanted to attend since the moment I set foot onto the tree-lined main drive for the first time. I can’t explain the sense of belonging and rightness I felt as I wandered the old corridors and manicured grounds on my tour. I had visited lots of schools, been wowed by meal plans, dorm set ups, curriculum options, and diverse extra-curricular activities. But any interest I had in them disappeared as I toured Kimball, the main dining hall, and Dinand, the grand library. This was where I was meant to go to school—I could feel it, and I eagerly mailed my application with butterflies in my stomach and a quick kiss on the envelope.

Yet the months of waiting, checking the mail everyday, had lead to this disheartening moment, standing in my kitchen with my coat still on, slipping the thin, uncaring paper out of the cold white envelope. I scanned the page, looking for some sign of either acceptance or rejection. Blah, blah, blah, “we had a great applicant pool this year,” yada yada yada, “we can’t offer spaces to everyone,” something-something-something, “placing you on our waitlist,” — huh?

“What does it say, honey?” my dad askd, his voice full of anxiety for me.

“I didn’t get in, but I’m on the waitlist.” I said, rereading the letter. Being relegated to the waiting list seemed a strangely anticlimactic end to my passionate desire to be accepted.

“Well, at least it isn’t rejection,” he said brightly.

“Yea, but still,” I said, a small tear sneaking out of the corner of my eye. “I don’t want to be on the waiting list; I want to be accepted. Holy Cross was the one school I cared about. It doesn’t matter where I go now, because it is all ruined. No one gets in off the waiting list, it is a consolation prize. It’s a way of saying ‘thanks for trying; we liked you enough not to flat out reject you,’ but everyone knows it’s the same thing.” My lip quivered; I was on the edge of dissolving into childish crying.

“So then let’s go out there and tell them so.”


“I’m serious. Let’s drive out there so you can tell them how you feel. What have you got to lose?”

“That sounds lame, dad,” I pouted. “Stuff like that doesn’t work.”

“OK, do what you want. But, if I were you, I would make the effort to show them how much I want it.”

Frustrated and annoyed, I went upstairs and busied myself in my room, my father’s advice swirling around in my head. It was a silly idea. They wouldn’t care if I showed up, begging to be let in. It would be a waste of everyone’s time, not to mention very embarrassing for me.

However, I mulled the situation over for a few days, finally coming to the conclusion he was right. I had nothing to lose. I might as well try, or else I would never know. On Wednesday morning I asked him if he would drive me out there Friday. He smiled and said, “Of course.”

The butterflies in my stomach felt as if they were threatening to leap out of my mouth as we pulled up in front of the vast and daunting admissions building. We walked in and took a left down an echoing and empty hallway. My dad stopped part way down the hall and said with a smile, “Good luck, sweetheart.”

At the end of the hallway, I turned right and presented myself to the admissions secretary. I asked if the officer who conducted my interview would have a minute or two to chat. Fifteen minutes later, I was ushered into the same bright meeting room where I had my first interview and found myself seated across from Mr. Luis Soto, my admissions officer. He smiled as he held my fate in his hands.

“What can I do for you, Nacie?” he asked pleasantly.

“Well, sir, I am here to tell you that I love this school and would love an opportunity to be here. I was put on the waiting list, and just wanted to come out here to tell you how much going here would mean to me—it is my only dream for college, sir—and that I would use my time here to the best advantage. I am seriously dedicated to doing my best here, and wanted to let you know that if you gave me a chance and reconsidered my application that you wouldn’t regret it.” I took a deep breath; the words had tumbled imploringly from my mouth before I could stop them or check their desperate tone.

Mr. Soto was a young man with a calming presence and a sweet manner. He looked me over for a minute before he smiled broadly.

“OK, well that is the kind of thing we love to hear. Congratulations, you’re in.”

My voice caught in my throat and I choked, “I’m sorry?”

“We want people in the class who want to be here, who will make the best of this education. I’m glad you came to talk to me. I’m happy to offer you a position in the Class of 2007.”

“Thank you,” I said, my voice small with disbelief. “Thank you. Thank you!”

I was still saying thank you as I shook his hand and walked, dazed and elated, out of his office and back down the hall. I couldn’t believe it. I started to cry from happiness and sheer mental overload. My father was sitting on a bench, his hands clasp anxiously on his knees. When he saw my tears he assumed the worst, and began to console me with an “Oh, honey...” before I was able to tell him the good news. Then his face lit up and he wrapped on arm around me as we walked out of the building.

As we left the campus that day, new Holy Cross T-shirt and hat in hand, we walked down a set of stairs that had lilacs growing on either side. My dad stopped, took a deep breath, and said, “I hope you will always remember the day you got into Holy Cross you were here with your father and everything smelled like lilacs.” I smiled at him as we pulled out the phone to call my mom.

The four years at Holy Cross were even more wonderful than I thought they could be, and I never lost that feeling of belonging. I had an opportunity to learn about everything from archaeology to organic chemistry to Freudian psychology to English poetry and graduated magna cum laude with an honors degree in history. So much for the prediction I would be in the bottom 25% of my class. It’s true that I haven’t, and will never, forget the day I got into Holy Cross. The whole experience taught me two of the best lessons I learned during my college years: don’t listen to other’s predictions for you, and if you truly want something, never, ever give up.

~Nacie Carson

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