Does it feel like you worked your hardest all four years of high school to get the opposite results you were hoping for? Did you follow the magic equation: excellent grades + rigorous classes + extracurriculars and sports + leadership + job = college success, and still come out empty handed? Or did you get accepted into your dream prestigious school, only to accept an offer at a state school for free tuition?
If this is you, you are not alone; many of your fellow classmates are sharing a similar experience that I believe occurs in five different stages of grief: Denial, “DAMN.”, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. Individual experiences with each stage may vary, but the grief cycle is universal.
Believe it or not, I can atest to this experience.
For some students, the experience of receiving college acceptances is a joyous occasion. Some seniors flaunt their college acceptances on social media, which is good for them. They got in, of course they can enjoy their moment in the sun. However, I encountered something quite different when I received correspondences from my selected colleges. Even though I wasn’t the only person who encountered this situation, the experience still felt isolating and can be summed up with the overall feeling of “DAMN.”
Denial is a shorter stage of grief in the college rejection grief cycle. During the earliest stage, it may be hard to accept that the college you built your dreams and future around is no longer an option.
Although I’ve always taken higher level classes to challenge myself and feed my inquiring mind with knowledge, my end goal was to give myself the freedom to attend college wherever I wanted. I took the hardest IB classes offered at my school with the intention of having a rigorous course load that selective colleges sought. For example, IB Physics is a class that combines my weaknesses in math and science. However, I took the class because I thought that taking an already challenging class at the IB level would show colleges that I can take academic risks and succeed.
Not getting into my dream, or even target schools, has made me feel like everything I did was a waste. In hindsight, I could have opted out of taking IB History of American and IB English HL ll, arguably the hardest junior and senior courses offered at my school that entailed pain and suffering for a “greater outcome,” in favor of easier classes within the same subjects. I believe I could have taken easier classes and gotten the same end results.
During Sophomore year, we make decisions that affect both our high school career and life beyond high school. Every time we sign up for courses, we are making a gamble. Debating whether or not we made the right choice is the very definition of the bargaining stage of grief.
The longest stage of grief is depression. However, in the college decision process, the luxury of wallowing in your pity and self deprecation doesn’t exist because the deposit deadline is June 1 for all colleges and universities.
Rationally, I know that life is not over. However, I have not yet fully accepted the reality of the results of my extensive college search and the scramble it’s taken to settle into another college path.
Seniors: Realistically, we can still all end up at our dream school with enough work and determination. If you still feel passionately about a dream school that originally rejected you, consider transferring either next year or the following year. You can also still aim high for graduate or professional school, while having saved money on undergraduate tuition. Or maybe you’ll find that the path you felt forced to take, in the words of Robert Frost, “made all the difference.”