One year ago today, I received the most heartbreaking letter a high school senior could read. Reading that letter brought me a mix of emotions: shock, anger, stress, and overwhelming sadness, but the emotion I didn’t expect to feel hit me the hardest-relief.
For me, waiting for a decision letter was harder than writing an application. I knew which college I wanted to attend when I was a junior, so writing my application was fun and validated my love for the school.
Over the past year, I have thought a lot about what made the month of waiting so stressful. The answer for me, was fear of the unknown. As much as I envisioned myself walking around campus, and studying in the library, my anxiety stemmed from my need for a concrete answer.
For many 17 or 18 year olds, this may be the first time that something is completely out of your control. When you submit your application, you are putting your hopes and dreams into someone else’s hands–someone who only knows you for your accomplishments and not your character.That’s an incredibly vulnerable feeling.
For many 17 or 18 year olds, this may also be the first time you are rejected. A lot of you grew up feeling constant validation – from your parents, friends, and teachers-rejection was a feeling you never experienced, until now. It may leave you wondering what comes next.
If there is one piece of advice I could give, it’s to grieve. Being rejected from your dream school is a huge loss. Life before the letter was planned for you by your parents. A lot of you didn’t get to choose which middle school or high school you attended. College is the first time you are given an option, and not getting your first choice is heartbreaking.
This isn’t something to brush off until tomorrow, give yourself some time to grieve.
I’m not going to lie, this was a miserable time for me. Seeing my peers admitted to their first choice schools didn’t help. But through all of the jealousy and sadness, I noticed that this process gave me a lot more faith in myself. My confidence in my abilities to succeed in college never wavered and that’s what got me through this awful time.
Before I committed, I questioned whether I could love another school as much as I loved my first choice. I even developed plans to re-apply my Sophomore year. But when I committed to the college I attend now, I felt a shocking surge of confidence.
I am so grateful that I got that rejection letter one year ago. I grew more from that experience than I ever thought I would. I learned how to be happy for people who got what I wanted and I learned how to adapt to situations that I hadn’t planned for. I realize now that the school I attend is the right school for me. I remember suppressing my love for it when I toured because I wouldn’t let myself love another college. Now, I let myself love this school not only because I feel at home here but because this school wanted me, even in a time where I felt like I didn’t want it.
Remember that rejection is a terrible feeling, but there is so much growth that comes out of it. Take your time to grieve, but know that better times are coming. Before you know it, you will be sitting in a dorm one year later, anxious for those who are going through this, but grateful for being where you are.
Lauren Ofman is a Freshman at The George Washington University where she studies Journalism and Mass Communications. She is a reporter for The GW Hatchet and the creator of her personal blog Laurenofman.com as well as her parenting blog My Perspective. She also loves American Sign Language and advocating for increased access for people with disabilities. Follow Lauren at @laurenofman.