12/30/2013 10:23 am ET Updated Mar 01, 2014

The One Letter I Never Saw Coming

This is part of our monthly series 'Mission: Accepted,' in partnership with Minds Matter, which chronicles the lives of four students as they apply for college in their senior year.

I couldn't believe it. I stared at my phone screen at 5 p.m. on Monday, December 16 -- exactly when the University of Pennsylvania said early admissions decisions would be posted. The letter read, "After careful consideration..." There were too many words. I automatically thought I hadn't gotten accepted. For a split second, I felt angry and like everything was just over, but I forced myself to continue reading, "We have decided to defer..." What?! I was confused, I didn't know how to feel. When I pictured it in my mind, there were always just two scenarios -- accepted or rejected. I knew that getting deferred was also a possibility but I never thought it would happen to me.

I would love to say that I didn't let it bother me, but that would be a lie. The truth is I was a mess. I had been tutoring when I read the message, and had to wait 15 minutes until the session was over. As soon as I pushed through the library doors out into the street, tears rushed down my face as if they had just been gathering and waiting to fall. I cried and cried and cried. I called my mom and she tried to make me feel better but I couldn't control myself. As I sat on the bus and train on my way home, tears kept falling down my face.

Later on that night, I lay in bed about to go into another crying session when I took a second and thought about what I was doing. Why was I crying?! They hadn't rejected me; a deferral means they couldn't say yes or no. I had only been looking at it from one side: I thought they deferred me because something was missing; perhaps I didn't seem good enough to them when they read my application. But I hadn't bothered to think of it in a more positive way: they deferred me because they couldn't reject me, because they saw potential and couldn't say no.

After realizing this, I told myself to stop. I couldn't continue crying. I had done everything I possibly could and put all my effort into the application. The University of Pennsylvania is still my top choice, and I still think I have a good chance of getting in. This is just a small bump in the road and maybe my acceptance letter will come in March instead. The fact is, even if it doesn't, well, at least I know Penn considered me. They saw my application and thought I had a chance and place at their school. That in itself is enough to make me feel proud of myself and confident that I did my best. I know what I'm capable of and how hard I'll work to reach all my goals and dreams. If it isn't at Penn, then it'll be one of the other great schools I'm applying to. No matter what, a college acceptance letter won't determine who I become -- only I can determine that.