I have a dirty little secret.
Oberlin was not my original first choice for college.
I know, I know, crazy, right? For someone who is ridiculously in love with this place, it's hard to imagine that I originally had my sights set elsewhere. Oberlin was always a close second, though, and it had been on my list since I was thirteen. My original number one, whose name I will refrain from using because it's still a good school and I don't want to influence anyone's opinion, was a place pretty similar to Oberlin - the same liberal reputation, the same artsy student body. Let's call this place East Coast University.
December 13, 2013. A day that will go down in history as the day our lord and savior Beyoncé graced us with her eponymous album (which helped me to recover from the event you're about to read about), but also the day where everything changed. I knew admissions decisions were being released that day and I have never been so nervous in my entire life (save for the day I heard back from Oberlin). I couldn't sleep the night before. The day of, I didn't pay attention to any of my classes. I couldn't eat anything. I couldn't think about anything except the news I was due to receive at any minute. It was Friday the 13th and I was hoping for an ironic outcome.
It's about two in the afternoon. I'm sitting in psychology with my laptop open, staring at the screen. My friend Alison goes to check her admissions decision from NYU. She got in! Everyone in the class is excited for her! I think this has to be a good sign. If she got into her top choice, then I should get into mine, right? I log on to East Coast University's website. I have a notification! I click on the page.
"Dear Emma, we are disappointed to inform you..."
I didn't read any more. I didn't have to.
I always knew that it was a reach school for me. I knew that there was a large chance that I wouldn't get in. But knowing something and feeling something are two entirely different things.
At first I was fine. I was okay. I was sad, yes, but I wasn't in tears. I don't remember if I told someone I was rejected or if someone asked, but somehow that info came to the attention of the class. I got a few sympathy looks and some sorries. I am fine. I am fine. I am fine.
I am not fine.
I am crying. I am crying in class. I haven't done this since I was in kindergarten.
My teacher, a licensed psychologist who is trained to deal with people at their emotional lows, gently told me that I could take a moment to step outside if I needed to. I think I can recover. I think I can stop crying in class. I can't, so I step outside. I go to the girls' bathroom, where I break down. I call my mom. Somehow, between the sobs, she picked up what I was saying. She tells me she's coming home. My friend Mary comes in and gives me a hug. She tells me that she'll take me to The Melting Pot for dinner, if I'd like. We go back to class as it's ending and leave for MASQUE, our theater class. I thought I've regained my composure by now, but it's clear that I haven't when Mr. Brock tells me all of a sudden: "You look like you've been crying!" I break down again. The whole class listens to me attentively and gives me kind encouragements. That's the wonderful thing about being in small, close-knit classes like that. The college counseling staff calls me in to tell me that they are shocked that I didn't get in.
I drive home, where most of my journey is spent on a street that has the same name as the school I was just rejected from. I arrive home to find my mom sitting on the couch with a blanket, waiting for me. We've been though this before this school year, the same sting of rejection. She listens to me attentively, dispensing her motherly wisdom, telling me she never liked that school anyway. My friend Marilyn comes over with a cupcake. I sit on the couch watching TV and distracting myself, stuffing my face full of red velvet. I text Mary and tell her that I don't feel like going out to dinner, but she's welcome to come over and commiserate with me if she'd like. She does, bringing my friends Matt and Kate. We order pizza, listen to Christmas carols, watch bridal shows on TV, and trash talk people from our school. I don't know if any of them realize how much that meant to me and how much that cheered me up, but it made all the difference. By the time my parents returned, I was in a good mood.
Now it's Christmas break and I have a plan. I see that Oberlin has a second early decision program, which most schools don't. I know this has to be a sign, so I decide to apply. I email my college counselor, who, since it was a holiday, I wasn't expecting to hear back from, but I get a prompt response. She scrambles to get some of my materials together on Christmas Eve, when she should be relaxing and having fun with her family. I get everything in on time and don't really think about it for a while.
February 1st, 2014. The best day of my life, but I don't know it just yet. All I can bring myself to do is sit on the couch and watch Portlandia because a) it's one of the funniest shows ever and b) a school in Portland has already accepted me and if don't get into Oberlin, I will go there. All day long, I've been looking out the window, waiting for the mailman to come. Every time a person walks by my house, my heart leaps in my chest. The mail usually gets to my house any time around noon to three. It is after three. No mail. It is after four. No mail. It is after five. I am about to give up hope when all of a sudden, a familiar face approaches the door. It's the mailman. Now I think I am about to pass out, throw up, or some combination of the two. I am crouched down by the mail slot, waiting for the big envelope. At first I don't see it, but then there it is - the big envelope from Oberlin. Oberlin cuts right to the chase. When you tear the envelope open, you are greeted by a folder that says "Congratulations!"
I run into my mom's room as we hug and scream and cry and call everyone we know and post on Facebook and Instagram and any other outlet we can think of. Calls and well-wishes pour in from relatives. We go out for a celebratory dinner. It takes me quite a few days to come down from this high.
Life doesn't always turn out the way you think it will. Actually, in my nearly 19 years on this planet I have learned that, more often than not, life won't turn out the way you think it will.
But that's not always a bad thing.
Sometimes those twists in our story turn out to lead to better things (my rejection from East Coast U led me to Oberlin, where I couldn't be happier). Sometimes those twists teach us something about ourselves (being cut from the spring musical last year led me to realize that I am stronger than I thought). And sometimes, those twists just plain suck, but hopefully we get a funny story out of them (it took me FOUR attempts to get my driver's license. Later used that tale on a highly acclaimed college admissions essay).
So, dear prospie, I know that various schools are letting you know their decisions soon. And it might turn out the way you hoped (congrats!) or it might not (eat some chocolate, talk it over with friends, and cry it out).
But if it doesn't turn out the way you want, that's ok. You will find somewhere great to go to, I'm sure of it.
You will be OK - I promise.
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September 12, 2022