By Justin W. (’19)
Having binge-watched college decision reaction videos and witnessed the success of so many students, I decided to film my reaction to my dream school status update just in case I could become the person on the other side of the screen for future college-hopefuls. I clicked my application status, saw the dreaded words, and froze. “Dear Justin, we are very sorry to inform you…”
I sat still at my desk for five minutes, unable to accept what had happened. Th
e next few days were filled with emotions: rage, despair, frustration, and stress from all the applications I now only had 10 days to finalize and submit. At school, I would act unaffected, but at night I would lie awake thinking to myself, “What if I’m not good enough? What if I don’t go to a good school?” I was so anxious that I spent the next few days repeatedly going through each part of the application in my mind. Grades? Good. SAT scores? Strong. Awards? Not bad. Essays? Good. Over and over and over again. I promised myself that I would stop thinking about college altogether after I went through the whole checklist one last time. But every time I went through the essays section, I doubted my assessment of my award section. And every time I reviewed my SAT scores, I doubted the strength of my grades. I was never able to convince myself that everything was good.
I fell victim to this culture and found myself unhealthily stressed about things that were outside of my control.
After a stressful winter break, school started again. Talking to a friend about his college application process, I learned that he had chosen his intended majors based on highest mid-career salaries. Hearing this, I felt sorry for him because he was building his entire life upon money without asking himself what he truly loved. I also felt irritated about the culture here at TAS: the emphasis on results and achievement pressures students excessively. I fell victim to this culture and found myself unhealthily stressed about things that were outside of my control.
Both my own painful experience and my friend’s comments have made me realize that college was making us seniors unnecessarily stressed. Since then, I’ve stopped obsessing over college admissions because I realized that I am not willing to let anyone or any institution deprive me of my self-worth. I’ve also learned to believe in myself and know that I will be okay wherever I go.
Over the past four years, I discovered my love of bioengineering as a iGEM member and developed mental resilience and grit as a swimmer. I believe this passion and work ethic will one day pave the way to a fulfilling future, not what college I end up attending. Honestly, I have no idea how important where I go for undergrad is, but I know I need to treat myself with respect and adopting this confidence has helped me be less worried. I still have around a month before my decisions come out, and stress or no stress, I still have to live through it. So why would I not choose to believe in myself?
…I am not willing to let anyone or any institution deprive me of my self-worth.
To my fellow seniors who are stressing out waiting for results, it’s a tough time, but I am sure that each and everyone of you will be successful wherever you go, not because of what school you attend, but because of the qualities you bring to the table. Getting rejected from my dream school gave me the confidence to believe in myself.