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Jessica Yang Headshot

The Waiting Game

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A year ago, if you told me that I'd be satisfied with where I was, I wouldn't believe you. I had gotten rejected from two schools on the same day and the only relatively redeeming quality to that day was that I was waitlisted to another.

Being on the waitlist was many things, mostly painful, but in hindsight there were good things that came out of the experience. It's hard to picture what positive experiences could come out of a waitlist experience at first; after all, you've got your foot halfway through the door already. I couldn't deal with the knowledge of knowing that there was a chance that I could have gotten in for a long time after.

I went on CollegeConfidential a lot, more than I ever went on that site combined in the three years before senior year (which was never), I read articles and I became obsessed. Those who are in my shoes know the feeling of being in-between -- not quite in, but not quite out.

In the end, there were things that helped, even the occasional comment from friends that I was "just a little obsessed." I found that talking to friends and family about the experience helped tremendously. It was therapeutic in a lot of ways since it kept me in check. Yes, there was a chance that I could get off the waitlist but there was also a chance that I would stay on the waitlist. While I had hope that I would get off, I was reminded regularly that I was in a precarious, unsure condition.

At the same time though, I also researched my options that I had as someone who was being waitlisted. There are some really out-there things that people do for waitlists, some that almost rival promposals on the scale of grandiose, but some are tamer, such as sending a letter reiterating interest in the school.

Towards the end of my experience, I found the late David Nyhan's article about rejection that he wrote for the Boston Globe.

He writes:

This is the important thing: They didn't reject you. They rejected your resume. They gave some other kid the benefit of the doubt. Maybe that kid deserved a break. Don't you deserve a break? Sure. You'll get one...Bad habits you can change; bad luck is nothing you can do anything about.

Does it mean you're not a good person? People like you, if not your resume. There's no one else that can be you. Plenty of people think you're special now, or will think that, once they get to know you. Because you are. And the admissions department that said no? Screw them. You've got a life to lead.

In the midst of admissions decisions, it's hard not to be upset but this made me realize that I still have so much ahead of me. I find myself referring back to the letter still, long after decisions have come out.

By now, you're probably wondering whether or not I got off the waitlist. After all, how can I be so breezy, so ready to give advice? I didn't and in a way, I'm thankful. The experience made me realize what I wanted; for so long I didn't know what kind of college experience I wanted and it made me work so much harder. This is what I truly believe.

Months after the waitlist experience ended, I found out that a friend of a friend who got off the same waitlist I was on chose not to go to the school. I thought I'd be jealous of her since I was practically dying for a chance to get off the waitlist and she got in, choosing not to go. It surprised me that I wasn't remotely close to jealousy. I was content with my luck and the way my life had ended up.

I was talking to a friend late at night at the library as college kids often do, and we came to the topic of waitlists. We were both waitlisted at schools we could see ourselves going to, schools we were sure we'd fit in. I started saying that I was happy here, words that the person who I was a year ago would never think I'd say. We both had college experiences, albeit different ones than the ones we would've gotten had we both gotten in to our dream schools, but the experiences that we have now are positive ones. We both know people who make us happy, people who we can connect with. And if we're really upset with our college experiences? There's always the option to transfer.

High school graduation isn't the end; rather it's the beginning. As the shirts from John Green's novel The Fault in Our Stars say, "Okay? Okay."