59: Getting In... from the Waitlist

59: Getting In... from the Waitlist

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

Getting In... from the Waitlist

Everything you want is out there waiting for you to ask. Everything you want also wants you. But you have to take action to get it.

~Jules Renard

I approached the only free computer in the library during seventh period—one of two that sat on a mahogany, chest-level table with no chair. I would only be a minute. It takes several minutes to read an entire college decision letter. It takes less than a minute to recognize an acceptance or a rejection.

As the Boston University website loaded, I felt several pairs of eyes sneaking annoyingly curious glances at my computer screen. Or, at least I think I did. When you’re waiting for a college decision letter, you think your computer screen, your mailbox, and your telephone are the center of the universe.

An odd detachment washed over me as I skimmed the letter. I logged off and shuffled, in a daze, back to my study table. I stopped to ask my friend Meredith if she had heard from Stanford yet.

“Yeah... I, well, I was recruited for tennis, but... well... I was rejected.” The tears that had splashed down her face left barely visible paths on her cheeks—like dried up rivers.

I sat down. I had been waitlisted, and didn’t know what to think.

That night I logged into my e-mail account and found that Villanova had posted my admissions decision. The page loaded quickly.

Rejection letters never say the word “rejection.” I wanted to scream and cry to whomever had come up with such a flowery way of saying that Villanova didn’t want me. That day, I had accepted a place on a waitlist and been rejected by my final school. I knew I would not have a stress-free end to my senior year — simply because I didn’t want to go anywhere that had accepted me, and BU, the only school I would consider attending, had sent me to admissions limbo. The rest of the night was eerily unremarkable considering the events that had taken place. Wheel of Fortune came on at six. I read a few scenes from Death of a Salesman. I cried through all of it.

The next day at school, I saw my college counselor, Mrs. Cady. There is no way to describe her other than “peppy.” Mrs. Cady was my eternal cheerleader. In an oppressive, strict environment where I truly believed I had not thrived, Mrs. Cady, with her colorful sweater sets and bouncy blond ponytails, was one of the few faculty members at school who saw me for who I was.

I spent the time walking from my classroom to her office trying to mold my face into that of a happy person. I reached her office. On the door was a poster of Wake Forest—a purple-y evening shot of the campus, with its winding paths and charming streetlamps. I looked at that poster — the poster that had become so familiar to me through countless visits — and knew I would cry.

Mrs. Cady nodded and handed me Kleenex after Kleenex as I tried to express my feelings — embarrassment, fear, confusion — an overwhelming sense of being out of control.

“I’ve messed up so much,” I gulped through sobs. “I shouldn’t have listened so much to people. Why didn’t I pick safeties I actually wanted to go to? Why would I ever think I would have a chance at these schools? I’m nowhere near good enough.” As I was talking, her utterly empathetic, sensitive blue eyes made me think the worst — I had let her down after she had believed in my ability to succeed.

I looked at the clock. I had missed two classes, and what felt like ten years worth of tears had emptied out.

“Molly, you’re so intelligent. You’re beautiful, funny, and just about the friendliest girl I’ve ever met. You have so much energy. Why not channel all of that energy into getting off the waitlist?” Mrs. Cady reached out and grabbed my hand. “You’ll have to put down a deposit somewhere else, just in case. But I know you. And if I were director of BU Admissions, you’d be my first choice off the waitlist. Now let’s get busy!”

Being removed from a waitlist is a long shot at any school — they can be thousands of students long—but Mrs. Cady made me believe that it wasn’t a long shot. I owed myself a chance to be at a school that would make me happy.

We began seeing each other daily, her helping me craft e-mails to the admissions office, me begging to hear about her conversations with admissions directors about me. Soon, I forgot that I was on the waitlist at all. All things BU consumed me. And not once did Mrs. Cady consider the possibility that I would not attend my dream school.

My mammoth, excruciatingly crafted letter to the admissions director was so vivid I forgot there were words, not pictures, on the page. I wrote about seeing my op-ed pieces printed in newspaper ink in the student paper, The Daily Free Press. I forced him to envision me gliding silently down the Charles River as a member of the BU Sailing Team. I told him I am the type of student that never puts her hand down. I let him see beyond my transcript. When the admissions director read my initial application, he saw my C+ in Algebra 2. In my letter, he saw me. He saw what I would bring to BU. And oddly enough, the more I wrote about what I would bring to BU, the clearer it became that all those college rejection letters were no reflection of my self-worth. In fact, I was one of the most interesting people I knew!

After dropping the letter in the mailbox, I tried to enjoy the end of my senior year. We watched movies in class and teachers encouraged us to bring in chocolate chip cookies and Dunkin Donuts. Dr. Marker, my French teacher, was leading a rousing game of French charades one day when a student delivered a note to the room. I was to come to the college counseling office, immediately.

I walked briskly, not pausing to wander the expansive hallways and stare at graduate composites from the 1800s. Mrs. Cady was standing outside her office when I arrived.

I’m not sure how she told me, or even if she told me at all. I was in. I sobbed a choking sob, first out of pure relief, and then pure joy.

“I knew you’d do it,” Mrs. Cady whispered. I felt her cheek against my own. I was sure my tears were making her face wet, but when I pulled away, I realized she was crying, too. The other college counselors emerged from their offices, clapping, some wiping tears away, others laughing and shaking their heads at the amazing difference a college counselor can make in the life of a student.

There were no streamers, no balloons falling from the sky, no music. But there might as well have been. That moment was the beginning of the greatest party of all time. Come on — what other celebration lasts four whole years?

~Molly Fedick

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