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Erica DeMichiel Headshot

What the College Application Process Taught Me

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Alamy
Alamy

After months of waiting, wondering, and wishing, the college process is finally over. It has been two years of campus visits, information sessions, and endless discussions about my future plans. Now that I have relinquished my status as a "prospective student," I am not quite sure how to fill the void. When I found out I was wait-listed at four schools, I believed that my efforts throughout high school had been all for naught. Somehow, being a "maybe" stung more than being outright rejected from my top choice college.

Understandably, I was crushed to learn that the schools I loved most did not return the feeling. Having poured my heart and soul into each application, I couldn't help but take the outcome personally. Facing long odds only augmented the irony of the situation. I gave myself a day to mourn the death of each dream and promised to start the next day with renewed energy. Rejection hurts, but I learned the importance of keeping my spirits up during a notoriously unpredictable process. I recovered quickly just by spending time with friends after putting my social life on hold.

Though I had moments of heartbreak and disappointment, I cannot say that my experience was unsuccessful. I received acceptances from schools with less name recognition and decided to explore them further.

I eventually opened my mind up to new possibilities and potential advantages to each of my schools. To my surprise, one of them had everything I wanted but was too blinded by Ivy League prestige to realize. I was surprised and excited to discover that what I spent months searching for turned out to be staring me directly in the face. I learned that tunnel vision is never productive, and my perfect school knows that as well as I do. So I guess I don't believe in love at first sight after all.

That isn't to say that world-renowned universities are not all they're made out to be. Of course, everyone knows the names of schools like Harvard, Yale, and Princeton by age five, and there is a good reason for that. As highly regarded schools with consistently decreasing acceptance rates, it is difficult for just about anyone to be accepted. I knew that my chances were bleak at the outset, but I found that having a challenging school as my first choice helped motivate me throughout the application process. My dream, no matter how unrealistic, pushed me to work harder to reach my goals.

Despite warnings from others that my attempts would be futile (and these people did happen to be correct), I do not regret the time I spent pursuing my pipe dream. I would rather have a moment of anguish than a life of "what ifs." "Everything will be okay in the end. If it's not okay, then it's not the end." I pass these words in the hallway every day as I head to English class and never thought twice about them. Until now, that is. This process instilled me with the overwhelming belief that no matter how dismal a situation may seem, the universe has a natural way of working itself out.

I'm looking forward to these next four years more than I ever anticipated.