05/29/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Rejection's Bright Side

I started thinking about where I wanted to go to college before I graduated middle school. I kept a Fiske Guide next to my bed, dog-eared into near obliteration, and stayed home on the weekends to cruise College Confidential. The idea that there was a perfect college out there for every student fascinated me, and I couldn't wait to find my match.

I was meticulously strategic in my approach to applications, laughing off my father's pleas to attend a state school and instead focusing on a cluster of boutique Midwestern liberal arts colleges to which I was positive I would gain entry. I had the test scores, the literary journal editorship, the respectable GPA. While my classmates chattered away about their nervousness in getting accepted to Ivies and Big Tens, I secretly applied to schools no one had ever heard of and that didn't have football teams. I thought I was golden.

But then I didn't get in. To any of them. My first rejection, which came from Macalester College on a dark night in December, felt like a direct sock in the eye. My second, from Kenyon, a sock in the other. My third, the thinnest envelope from Colorado College, a sucker-punch to the gut. The college admissions gods had cut to pieces my five careful years of planning and dreaming, and I was devastated.

At the last minute, however, I was accepted to Bard College, a tiny school on the east coast that I hadn't thought much of before but actually fit all my criteria perfectly: Classes of fewer than fifteen, an admirable student to professor ratio, bucolic scenery and accessibility to a large city. It was what I was going for, just in a different region, the grass a slightly different shade of green.

So I went. I lasted two years before I realized it was absolutely not for me. On a whim, I ended up transferring to the University of Texas -- an enormous state school with a football stadium to seat 90,000 and a dorm so massive it had its own ZIP code. It was fantastic (and I saved a bunch of money).

The moral of the story? Every single cliche about college admissions is true: College is what you make of it. You'll find your own path. None of this matters.

And you can always, always transfer.

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