70: I Made Lemonade

70: I Made Lemonade

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

I Made Lemonade

If we will be quiet and ready enough, we shall find compensation in every disappointment.

~Henry David Thoreau

Sitting in my seat during my high school graduation, I wasn’t even thinking about the past four years. I was so excited about summer that I practically ran across the stage to receive my diploma. I pictured laying on the beach with my friends, swimming in the neighbors’ pool, shopping for decorations for my dorm room n the fall. While daydreaming in that humid auditorium, with my parents and sister proudly watching, I never once considered the fact that I would not be able to pay for the life I so badly wanted.

For years I had been dreaming about going to Northwestern University. The campus was beautiful. The trees swayed in the breeze, the perfectly manicured gardens sparkled in the sunlight. Their academic program is one of the top in the country. It was only twenty-five miles away, making it close enough if there was an emergency, but far enough away so that I’d have my freedom. There was only one setback; the tuition was $40,000 a year.

My family had never had a lot of money. My dad was the manager of a pipe company and my mom was a secretary. We weren’t poor either, though. We never went without the things we needed. We just had to watch what we spent.

Because my father made a considerable amount of money, I did not receive financial aid. However, he did not make enough to pay for college tuition and all the bills we had to pay. It seems like an ironic joke the government was playing on us. In order to receive the money I needed for school, I would have to take out loans. But here, there was another catch. I needed a cosigner because I had not established any credit. I couldn’t use my parents as cosigners because they had previously cosigned for a loan that was not paid back, through no fault of their own.

It seemed hopeless. Day after day would go by, and I wasn’t any closer to being able to pay for school. Each day that passed meant I was one day closer to the beginning of school. I searched the Internet for ideas and scholarships, but there wasn’t anything to be found.

I became very anxious and scared. My friends were talking about all the things they got for their dorm rooms, and it just made me even more upset. I was too embarrassed to say anything to them. They had all been able to pay for the college of their dreams, but my family could not. I felt poor and out of place. I began to stay in at night and avoided my friends. I did not want them to know about my financial situation and I couldn’t stand to hear them talk about college. I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to go to college and I would be an outcast who was too poor to do anything.

There were only three weeks left until the start of school and I had not come up with any solutions. My dad came into my room one morning and asked if we could talk. He was not a very verbal person and I knew it had to be important for him to want to talk. He told me he was so sorry that he couldn’t give me what I wanted and what I deserved. He said he knew how much Northwestern meant to me, but maybe I should consider the other places I applied to.

After he left I felt so ashamed. During this whole ordeal, I had never once thought about how this was affecting my parents. It can’t be easy to watch your child go through this, let alone not be able to help in anyway. I realized I was being very selfish and pouty.

After he left, I started looking through the acceptance pamphlets I had stacked on my dresser. None of them compared to what I wanted. However, I found one closest to what I imagined life at Northwestern would be like. The pamphlet showed students walking to class, smiling, with the wind blowing through the trees behind them. The campus seemed beautiful. The buildings were all red brick, with beautiful trees and flowers surrounding them. I guess it didn’t look so bad, I thought. Also, the tuition was nowhere near what Northwestern’s was. That’s it, I thought, it’s settled. I was going to Purdue University.

A couple of weeks later, my parents and I made the two-hour drive to the West Lafayette, Indiana campus. I was still very upset that I couldn’t go to the college of my dreams.

However, this campus was very beautiful. We got to my tiny dorm room and moved in all the stuff I brought only to realize I had more than I needed. My parents packed half of what I brought back into the car, and hugged me. My dad told me that things don’t always work out as planned but that doesn’t mean it still isn’t great. I smiled but didn’t believe him. I turned around and walked back to my room unhappily.

A year has gone by, and I have absolutely no regrets about my decision to attend Purdue. While my life would definitely be different if I hadn’t, I have made so many friends and so many memories that I don’t care what life would be like at Northwestern. As I was packing my stuff to move out at the end of the school year, I was very sad again. However, this time, I didn’t want to leave. I had so much fun that the thought of going home over the summer was horrible. My friends promised to keep in touch over the summer, and I knew I would see them again in the fall.

I realized that my dad was right. Things don’t always work out as planned, but that doesn’t mean it still isn’t great. I had been so upset that I didn’t get what I wanted that I didn’t even think about the great things that could happen to me elsewhere. I learned that the cliché “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade” was completely accurate. If I hadn’t gone to Purdue my life would be completely different and who knows if I would have been as happy as I am today. I cannot wait to go back to Purdue in the fall. From now on, I promise to look at all the options in any given situation to decide what is best for me. I promise to take the good with the bad and make my own happiness wherever I go, even if it’s not what I originally planned.

~ Jacquelyn Gillis

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