77: A Pittsburgh Rose

77: A Pittsburgh Rose

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

A Pittsburgh Rose

Trust your hunches. They’re usually based on facts filed away just below the conscious level.

~Joyce Brothers

“Did anyone get the mail yet?” I shouted. “No, honey. You can go check it,” my mother replied. As I bounded out the door, and raced down the driveway, the cold January air stung my lungs with each breath. I opened the mailbox and all I saw at first was junk mail, but there it was — a letter from the Admission Office at James Madison University I raced back inside to open it.

As a high school senior with good grades and plenty of extracurricular activities, I decided to apply “early admission” to James Madison, my first choice school. I applied to several other colleges for regular admission but I wasn’t particularly inspired by any of them. I really wanted to go to JMU. I loved the campus. It just felt like a place where I would belong.

My heart was racing as I sat at the kitchen table with my mother over my shoulder. I tore open the envelope and started scanning the letter. “We regret to inform you... you will be deferred... general applicants...” My heart sank. I ached. Tears welled up in my eyes. My mother hugged me. “Oh honey. I’m so sorry. It’ll be okay. You’ll get in during the next round of admissions.”

“No, it’s not okay,” I insisted through the tears. “What if I don’t get in during the next round?”

“You will. And if you don’t, you’ll get in to one of the other schools where you applied.”

“You don’t understand! I don’t want to go to any of those other schools!” There was no way I could go to those other schools. They had been fine to apply to but I couldn’t actually see myself attending them. They were just supposed to be my “safety” schools. I had to go to James Madison. It was the only place I would be happy. Oh why God was this happening to me?!

The next morning, I marched into our guidance counselor’s office. “Mrs. Edwards, I need some serious help. I wasn’t accepted to James Madison through early admission and I don’t want to go to any of the other schools I applied to,” I said in an emotional explosion.

“Okay, take a deep breath. Calm down and have a seat.” I spent that whole morning in Mrs. Edwards’ office. Ultimately we decided it would be best if I started applying to some additional schools.

When I had first structured my college search, I limited myself by tuition expense, geography, student body size, and one other thing. I insisted that I would not attend any Catholic colleges. Having spent the last twelve years in Catholic school, I wanted to experience secular education. Mrs. Edwards reminded me that I was now applying to colleges late in the application process and that I should be open-minded about schools.

That night I came home and my parents helped me apply to five additional schools. We agreed that we would wait and see if I was accepted before we made trips out to visit them. I felt good. I had a plan of action.

As the winter turned into spring, I began getting acceptance letters. I was accepted at every college I applied to from my first round of applications, except I still had not heard from James Madison. Then I started getting acceptance letters from my later round of applications. I was accepted into two schools in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, including Duquesne University. So my mom and I packed up and headed to Pittsburgh.

We started the morning at Duquesne, even though it had a strike in my book because it was a Catholic university. As we set foot on the campus, I was filled with a euphoric feeling. “Isn’t it just gorgeous here?” I asked my mom.

Duquesne has a charming campus in the springtime. There are flowers everywhere and fountains flowing. Students were studying outside and playing around on the athletic fields. Duquesne is situated at the top of a mountain which overlooks downtown Pittsburgh. It is absolutely one of the best views of the city.

After our tour of the campus, we went and met with an admissions counselor. It turned out Duquesne really wanted me. They were willing to give me a scholarship! My mother was beaming with pride.

As soon as we left the admissions office, I excitedly called my dad. I told him how much I loved the school and that they were going to give me a scholarship. We decided that our whole family would head back up to Duquesne that weekend so that my dad and sister could see the school as well.

“Natalie, let’s stop in and make a visit to the chapel before we leave,” my mom suggested as we were heading to our car. We walked inside and my breath was taken away. It was the most understated and gorgeous chapel I had ever been in. We took time to say a prayer. I prayed to God to lead me to the school I was meant to go to. I asked for a specific sign. I asked God to send me a rose if this was the school for me. As we left the chapel, I was filled with emotion. I felt in love, and at peace, and so very, very happy.

And so that weekend my mom and I returned to Duquesne with my dad and sister in tow. I flitted around campus eagerly showing them the sights. I was already picturing which dorm I would live in. I found myself with an immense sense of pride in the university. My father commented on how happy I appeared. I told him I wanted to show him the school’s beautiful chapel.

Before I was completely in the sanctuary, it caught my eye. There on the side altar was a single pink rose in a vase. Tears welled up in my eyes. I turned to my parents and said, “I have to go here.”

The following week, as my parents prepared to send a deposit to Duquesne, my mom reminded me, “You know Natalie, you still haven’t heard from James Madison. We can wait to send in this deposit.”

“No, go ahead Mom. I know I want to go there. It was meant to be.” My mom smiled at me and gave me a hug as she mailed the check that would register me as a Duquesne student.

A few days later, the envelope I’d been waiting for arrived. I was accepted into James Madison. I was happy to receive validation that I could have gone there. But I was thrilled to end up instead where I was supposed to go.

~Natalie Embrey Hikel

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