61: The Campaign

61: The Campaign

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

The Campaign

Oh I’m gonna try with a little help from my friends.

~The Beatles

Deciding where to apply for college is, for most people, a very difficult process. With so many schools and so many different possibilities, it seems impossible to pinpoint a “dream school.” But if anyone asked Kyle, my best friend’s older brother, where he wanted to go to college, his answer was always, “I will go to Notre Dame.” This was the answer that I heard when I first met Kyle, a nine-year-old whose entire wardrobe consisted of Notre Dame apparel. Later, I learned that such a definitive answer should not have been a surprise. After all, Kyle’s first sentence as a baby was “touchdown Notre Dame!”

Kyle’s dad was the ringleader of such brainwashing, wanting to set high goals for his children. But Kyle’s mom was concerned that Kyle was setting himself up for failure by emotionally tying himself to one school so early. When high school came, Kyle worked extremely hard. By his senior year, Kyle had established some excellent credentials — salutatorian, varsity tennis, varsity basketball, president of the National Honor Society. He earned a reputation that made his college application shine, but with a school like Notre Dame, thousands of “shining” students apply each year and not all are accepted.

In the fall of Kyle’s senior year, Carrie, a Notre Dame admissions ambassador, visited his high school. He arrived at her presentation a half hour early, and he hung on every word that she said. After she finished talking, he approached her individually and asked what he needed to do to get into Notre Dame. She suggested that he should not apply early because his SAT scores were too low, but rather that he submit his application with the regular pool. Kyle followed Carrie’s instructions explicitly and sent in his application.

The only other school that Kyle applied to was Holy Cross, a school near Notre Dame that just recently converted into a four-year college. Many, including myself, wondered why such a successful student would not have applied to other prestigious schools, but Kyle remained resolute in his decision. He did not want to take a spot at a school that he did not truly want, because he did not want take away the dreams of an applicant who truly wanted to go to that school the way he wanted to go to Notre Dame. With the applications finished, the waiting began.

During those first days of April, Kyle expectantly waited for the mail. And then it came, his future determined by one letter. But as soon as Kyle saw the envelope, he knew that it would not contain good news. Kyle’s small envelope contained a letter telling him that he was placed on the waiting list.

I do not think I could find a word strong enough to describe Kyle’s disappointment. The day he found out, he cried and played basketball in his driveway through the night. And that next week, Kyle, the person who never stopped talking even when you asked him to, did not say a word. It was during that week that the kindness of his fellow students truly manifested itself. For every other student in Kyle’s senior class who was on the waiting list at Notre Dame took his or her name off the list so that Kyle would have a better chance of being accepted. Kyle’s dad let the week pass and then he asked Kyle, “So what do you want to do now? Do you really want to just quit?” Kyle and his dad were not ready to give up yet.

Kyle’s dad called Carrie, the admissions ambassador who Kyle had met that fall and asked her, “What now?” Thankful for the calm and polite demeanor of Kyle’s dad, she gave this advice: “All that I can tell you is that in the event that Notre Dame decides to take anyone off the waiting list, you have to prove that Kyle is the one who wants it the most.”

From there, the letter writing campaign began. Kyle received over 200 letters of support from teachers, friends, family, and even the bishop. Kyle forwarded Notre Dame three to four letters a day, along with countless e-mails. Soon, Carrie called Kyle and told him that he could stop sending the letters; he replied that he would stop when she sent him his acceptance letter. The letters were just the beginning. Soon after, Kyle sent Carrie a box of photos that demonstrated just how intrinsic Notre Dame was to his family life. The pictures ranged from Notre Dame football games, to Christmas with Notre Dame-related presents. Finally, Kyle called and asked for an interview, but there were no interviews for waitlisted students. However, Carrie did promise that if Kyle flew out to Notre Dame in late April, she would give him thirty seconds to state his case.

So state his case he did, but the waiting only continued because Notre Dame was still unsure whether they would take any students from the waiting list. It was not until late May that Kyle got the phone call. While Kyle was at a tennis match, Carrie called his house and opened the phone conversation with Kyle’ sister, Megan, by saying “I hate to have to tell you this over the phone...” With an opening like this, Megan’s heart sunk. But in the next breath Carrie said, “Please let Kyle know that we took him off the waiting list?”

“What does that mean?” Megan asked, still unsure if this was good news. Carrie replied, “We moved him onto the list of accepted students!” When Kyle got home that night and heard the news, it was evident that all of his hard work had finally paid off.

This year, Kyle graduated from Notre Dame, and after graduation took Carrie out to dinner. They reminisced about the day that Kyle was accepted and Kyle learned that he was the last person accepted to Notre Dame that year. I frequently think back to the day that Kyle was accepted. That day serves as a great reminder that hope and perseverance and hard work can truly make miraculous things happen.

~Lauren Gibbons

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