04/06/2012 08:46 am ET Updated Jun 06, 2012

The Glory of Getting in

April is such an exciting month. The dreariness of winter has passed, the transitional March is over and we're finally really in spring, that glorious season. The vernal equinox has always connoted a time of new beginnings, of growth and blossoming, and no one knows that more than high school seniors right now.

I spent a few hours on Monday evening calling admitted students to congratulate them on their acceptance to the university and answer any questions they might have about life here at Northwestern. I remember getting the same phone call last year and how nice it felt, not only because it was nice to get a student perspective on things like dorm food and the social scene but also because it further drove home the fact that I was going to college. That realization was one of the best feelings I've ever experienced. Remembering the first college acceptance I got still triggers a huge whirlwind of emotions inside but they all seem to be tied to one central feeling: extreme happiness.

It was an evening in December of 2010. I was just getting home from my after-school job. I was cold, hungry and irritable. All I wanted was a hot shower and some kind of sustenance in my stomach before I crept into bed and passed out after a long day. I opened the door, put down my backpack and immediately looked on the kitchen table for any envelopes addressed to me, as I had gotten into the habit of doing after I started receiving mail from colleges on a daily basis. And there it was. A big white envelope from one of the two schools I had applied early action to.

I remember instantly my heart started racing and my hands trembled as I reached down to grab it. I knew inside would hold an acceptance letter -- why else would they bother to send such a big envelope, right? -- but I was still so nervous. I had imagined the moment I would receive my first admission decision back hundreds of times in my mind, but this was the real deal. I had envisioned my entire family being there when I opened the letter but at that moment I was the only one home. I thought about waiting for everyone to get home but quickly decided against that, as I knew I didn't have the discipline or patience to wait that long before opening it. So, with my hands still trembling, I broke the seal on the envelope and pulled out a maroon folder emblazoned with the school's name and seal.

I stared at the front of the folder for a minute or so, breathing shallowly, and I recall my legs starting to shake as the realization of what was inside of this folder seeped deeper into my mind. It was obvious my life was going to change no matter what the decision was, and I wasn't quite sure how ready I was to accept that. When I did open the folder I closed my eyes so I didn't see any words prematurely; I wanted to read the letter from the beginning and not skip a word.

I opened my eyes and let out the breath I didn't realized I had been holding and started to read. "Dear Stephen, It is with great pleasure I extend to you an invitation to join Fordham University and the Fordham College at Rose Hill Class of 2015." I kept reading the rest of the letter but nothing was registering. I had been accepted that was all that mattered.

I couldn't speak; I was so happy and so proud of myself. Despite the fact Fordham was not where I ultimately wanted to end up, it was the greatest feeling to know I had somewhere to go and that my hard work had paid off. That's really the highlight of any acceptance: knowing someone acknowledged everything I'd been working towards and appreciated it enough to grant me a seat at their college or university.

I ended up getting into my dream school in March of 2011 and I now go to school here, and while that acceptance letter really did change my life and filled me with immeasurable glee, it remains secondary to the first one in terms of significance in my life. That first one is one of the very few tangible things that are representative of my goals, my accomplishments and my measure of self-worth and there are not many things in the world that can top that.

So congratulations to you, high school seniors across the world. I'm sure none of you need to be told just how special your acceptance letters are.