Searching for the silver lining in college rejection

April 23, 2013

By Veronica Austin

As a high school senior, hardly a day goes by without someone — my dentist, my coworkers, my friends or my teachers — asking me where I’ll be attending college in the fall. While most of my peers have started visiting campuses and choosing dorms, I’m forced to admit that, frankly, I just don’t know yet.

Had you asked that same question about a year ago, I could have told you boldly and confidently, “The University of Oxford.” I spent most of high school working toward this singular goal; I took and retook SATs, tailored my schedule to meet the required Advanced Placement classes and scrambled my way through finals weeks to achieve what I thought were ideal scores, more than adequate to get me into the school of my dreams.

Veronica Austin Liberty High School

Veronica Austin
Liberty High School

I was wrong.

Last November, I found myself rejected, disappointed and in the midst of a brief existential crisis. As I started to come to terms with what I then considered to be a terrible failure, I also began to realize that, in fact, the world had not stopped turning. Rather, life had continued on, and my future — against all odds — was far from bleak.

Much of the high school mindset, when it comes to college, seems to suggest that where you go is critical, as if one’s dream school is the only place where he or she can get the perfect college experience.

As a rejectee, I disagree. Yes, where I go will affect the experience and education I get, but an equally — if not more — important factor in how I spend the next four years is my own attitude.

The quality of the education I receive at any institution will be the direct result of my own efforts or lack thereof. Likewise, I doubt that my “college experience” will be somehow insufficient because I failed to get into that one school. Regardless of where I choose to go, it will be up to me to take advantage of the opportunities I am given there.

I can’t say that students in high school shouldn’t have dream schools; the idea of Oxford helped keep me motivated throughout my four years at Liberty. However, I do know that success can’t be defined by a single application to one university. Without a dream school in the picture, I’ve been able to consider several different options, each one offering plenty of distinct opportunities that — if I choose to take advantage of them — would without a doubt create that “college experience” I thought I could only find at Oxford.

So no, dentist/coworker/friend/teacher, I can’t say I know where I’m going yet, but I know I have a lot to look forward to, no matter what.


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