72: Five Fantastic Rejections

72: Five Fantastic Rejections

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

Five Fantastic Rejections

If I had my way, if I was lucky enough, if I could be on the brink my entire life — that great sense of expectation and excitement without the disappointment — that would be the perfect state.

~Cate Blanchett

I expected to get in to every college I applied to. I knew, statistically, this was a ridiculous assumption, but deep down, I thought, “How could they possibly reject me?”

On paper, I looked like the perfect candidate: Valedictorian at a competitive private school, President of the Student Body, Cross Country Captain, State Champion runner, produced playwright, newspaper section editor, frequent community service volunteer... I was everything I thought they wanted from an applicant.

When April rolled around, and with it the promise of decision letters, I found myself calm amidst my anxiety-ridden peers. I received my first acceptance at a state college with little more thought than a mental checkmark—my safety was taken care of. I received my second and third acceptances at Carnegie Mellon and Georgetown University with relatively little excitement—these were the fallbacks, the safe bets.

My thoughts were draped in Ivy...

I imagined myself deciding between Princeton, Harvard, Yale, The University of Pennsylvania, and my top choice, Columbia. In my head, I saw the pro and con lists I would draw up to advance the deliberation process. Which had the smallest student-faculty ratio? The safest campus? The most vibrant city life? The most enticing cafeteria food?

But then the envelopes came in the mail. And not the big ones. First came Princeton—” Thanks but no thanks,” was the general message. Then came Yale — “Better luck elsewhere.” And then, all on the same night, I saw my future plans come crashing down: Harvard decided I was not worthy to wear Crimson, and the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia put me on their waitlists.

My memories of that night consist of many tears, an overdose of hyperventilation, and a healthy helping or two of trademarked teenage freak-out.

On top of it all, the previous day, I had been rejected by the boy of my dreams, “Josh.” We’d essentially been dating for a few months, but one major obstacle prevented things from really getting off the runway—his girlfriend. As of the night before, he had officially chosen her over me.

I was used to this type of rejection. I never had much luck with the opposite sex. I should rephrase: I had zero luck with the opposite sex. The most successful relationship I had had up until that point had been a two-month stint of “going out” in seventh grade with a boy I barely talked to. I was uncomfortable in my own skin, and didn’t even think I deserved a healthy relationship. Part of me thought I deserved romantic rejection.

But school? School was my domain. I was used to succeeding as a student, athlete, and artist. And I deserved to — no one worked harder than me. I prided myself on my diligent work ethic, my desire to learn, my need to ask questions and further my understanding of the world around me. I wholeheartedly believed I deserved to go to one of the best schools in the nation. Because who would work harder than me? Who was more qualified?

Apparently, thousands of other graduating seniors.

My parents were shocked. But they were the shortlist: My entire extended family was extremely surprised that I would not be attending an Ivy League school. It was torture to tell them. Each time was like re-admitting my ultimate failure.

I saw my rejections as a personal attack. Just as Josh had decided that another girl was better than me, Columbia had decided that 1500 girls were. I simply wasn’t good enough. I had fallen short in some way. Four years of arduous labor and sacrifice suddenly seemed like they’d gone unnoticed.

I enrolled at Georgetown University in the fall of 2006. I wasn’t too excited about it. But that soon changed.

I just finished my sophomore year, and I am absolutely in love with my college. It’s a great fit for me academically, artistically, athletically, and socially. I am so happy with my life right now.

I realize that I spent so much time and energy being upset over what I didn’t have, that I forgot to appreciate and be excited about what I did have. I had the opportunity to attend one of the top universities in the country. The opportunity to go to school in our nation’s capital, with a plethora of urban resources at my fingertips. To come face-to-face with political leaders on my campus and to become friends with some of the nation’s brightest students. I had the opportunity to be very happy, and I have finally not only seized that opportunity, but become aware and deeply appreciative of it.

More than anything, I have learned not to measure my self worth in terms of what someone else thinks, whether it’s a man I’m interested in, or an Admissions Officer. The college I attend does not define me or anyone else. Neither does the boyfriend of the hour. They are unimportant details compared to the content of a person’s character. And that’s a far trustier way to measure someone than by their SAT score or how attractive their significant other happens to be.

Over the course of my life, I have come to believe that every rejection I have received — whether it’s been in my personal life, my academic endeavors, or a dramatic audition — has been a blessing in disguise. Each rejection has closed one door, but opened another. I am so happy today, and I have five Ivy League rejections to thank for it.

~Emma Lee Goode

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