10/26/2012 04:05 pm ET Updated Dec 25, 2012

It's College Application Season: What I Wish I'd Known

As we near the end of October, college application season is in full swing. At this time last year I can vividly remember the stress and anticipation that hovered over me. I had one thing on my mind and it started with "Ford" and ended with "ham." Spoiler alert: it was Fordham. I had visited Fordham University in New York City in April of that year and was completely enthralled by it. I was convinced that it was the perfect school for me in every way. I had met with an admissions representative when I visited and as I left the campus with my mom, I was sure that my meeting would definitely increase my chances of getting in, "My name is Arden, that's such a unique name, there's no way they can forget it." Yeah, okay Arden. Whatever you say.

I decided to apply to eleven schools which I now realize was complete overkill. At the time, I had scared myself into thinking that I needed to apply to as many schools as possible since I was afraid of not getting in anywhere. I applied to three schools on my native West Coast, two in the Midwest, and the remaining six on the East Coast. I applied early action to the majority of these schools which meant the due date was in mid November and the notification date was mid to late December. I looked over my Fordham application no less than 65 times before turning it in, which included repeatedly making sure I spelled my name correctly.

On the first Monday of Christmas vacation, I was sitting at the computer and watched the mailman approach. I had just gotten out of the shower and had my hair tied up in a towel. My lack of makeup combined with the loss of my summer tan made me look as if I was channeling Marilyn Manson's mug shot. Knowing that this could be the day that my Fordham decision arrived, I rushed out to greet the mailman on the street. "Anything from Fordham?" I asked. "Nope not that I saw, just Loyola Chicago." Shoot. I took the pile of mail and headed inside.

Although I was disappointed that my Fordham decision hadn't arrived, I was happy to see that I had been accepted to Loyola University of Chicago and DePaul University (which is also in Chicago). As I continued to look through the mail, I came across a small white envelope with crimson writing that said "Fordham University" across the top right corner. The size of the envelope was significantly smaller than the ones that had come from Loyola Chicago and DePaul, which explains why the mailman missed it.

I opened it up slowly and while part of me knew that it wouldn't contain good news, I tried to stay hopeful. What I read was exactly what you would expect, something along the lines of "Dear Arden, We've had so many outstanding applicants and while you're perfectly qualified, we cannot accept you at this time and would like to defer you to regular admission." What came next were feelings of disappointment, feelings of frustration, and just flat out feelings of "WTF". Deferred to regular admission? What about me isn't good enough? Is there someone else?
Essentially, I felt as if I was being broken up with. What had I done wrong? I kept in contact with members of admission, I spent days on my application, I had a solid GPA, decent test scores, and had been very involved in high school. I'm even a quarter Japanese which I figured would score me some diversity points. Konichiwa? No?

Eventually it hit me, I didn't do anything wrong. This wasn't my fault nor was it anyone else's. It was simple. At that point in time, I wasn't what Fordham University was looking for. Maybe I hadn't taken enough AP classes, maybe my essay wasn't intriguing enough. Either way, it didn't really matter because it simply wasn't meant to be. So Fordham didn't accept me, but both Loyola Chicago and DePaul did. Maybe they knew that I would be a good fit for their school while Fordham knew I wouldn't. It was going to be okay.

The best way I can describe this is using a line from one of my favorite movies, Before Sunrise, and it goes, "You know what's the worst thing about somebody breaking up with you? It's when you remember how little you thought about the people you broke up with and you realize that is how little they're thinking of you." To me, this describes my whole college application experience as well as it describes love. You're going to love some colleges and you're going to dislike just as many. Some universities will accept you, others wont. I remember when I toured Loyola University of Chicago and realized it wasn't for me. Here was a school that liked me that I didn't like. And then there was Fordham that I liked but they didn't feel the same. It's one big cycle and while at times this cycle can be exhausting, realizing it before admission decisions are delivered, makes facing each denial or acceptance much easier to understand.

So here I am now, a year after sending in my applications, sitting in the Syracuse University library. I never ended up re-applying to Fordham under the regular admission program after deciding that it wouldn't have been the right school for me. I'm now in a program that fits me perfectly, at a school that I absolutely love. I'm looking around at all of the students and thinking about where they applied to school. What was their dream school? Was it here? Was it Yale? I smile to myself as I'm reminded once more that it doesn't matter because we all have one thing in common: We've experienced acceptance, we've experienced denial, we've accepted and we've denied and at the end of the day, although we may not be able to explain how or why, we end up where we're supposed to.