High School Senior Blues: The College Admissions Process

For all the high school seniors receiving college decisions, here are a few things I wish I'd told myself back then: 

After submitting my applications during the Thanksgiving holiday, I felt confident that my grades, extracurriculars, and test scores would propel me into the top UCs and perhaps even the Ivy Leagues. I spent months perfecting my personal statement and other supplemental essays, went to several trustworthy individuals to edit them, and worked diligently for several years on my academics to get to this point. Throughout my childhood, I valued my opportunities, especially my education. My parents also sacrificed a great deal for me by leaving their home country of the Philippines for their two daughters to have a better life. Knowing very well of their countless struggles, I pushed myself every day to make them proud and show them how grateful I was to pursue my aspirations in this country.

After pressing the “Submit” button, I slammed the lid of my laptop, let out a sigh of relief, and went on to celebrate the holiday with my family. All that was left to do was wait.

During the end of March, I received the notification that my decisions were available for viewing. I still remember sitting with my legs criss-crossed on my bed and my laptop perched on top of a decorative pillow. I opened them all as separate tabs and proceeded to click the “View my Application Status” button one at a time. At the first rejection, I simply brushed it off to the side and moved on. However, to my horror, almost every message, with the exception of several waitlist offers, started with the same phrase, “We regret to inform you…”

My only initial acceptances were at two UC’s--UC Santa Barbara and UC Irvine. While these schools are absolutely amazing in their own right, I felt extremely disappointed and blamed myself for not working hard enough to get accepted into more schools. I began to question everything. Did I forget to attach an essay? Was my GPA not solid enough? What did those admitted students have that I didn’t have? While my parents and friends encouraged me to still have hope in the schools that waitlisted me, I moped for several days. I couldn't sleep, eat, and lost motivation to study for my upcoming AP exams. To add even more salt to the wound, I heard everyone at my extremely competitive high school talk about the schools they got accepted to: Berkeley, UCLA, NYU, and Columbia.

With the help of my teachers, guidance counselor, family, and friends, I slowly developed an open mind about my two acceptances while waiting for the decisions for my waitlisted schools. I sought the opportunity to visit UC Santa Barbara and absolutely fell in love with the campus. Its party reputation did at first make me hesitate to commit. However, despite all my waitlisted schools eventually agreeing to accept me into their Class of 2020, I decided to go with my heart and submit the statement of intent to register at UCSB.

Image via The UCSB Current 

To this day, I don’t regret my decision. Frankly, UCSB was not at the top of my list for several reasons, but walking through the Arbor and admiring the views of the glistening sparkle of the ocean from the 8th Floor of the library made me realize that this was going to be my home for the next four years.

For those of you who are currently going through this process of receiving decisions, just know that those rejections are not a measure of your worth or intelligence. All of us don’t know what happens in the admissions room. We don’t know what type of students they’re looking for. Just because you weren’t accepted, it doesn't mean that you weren't a strong candidate. Nothing will take away from the fact that you attained a 3.90+ GPA, competed in varsity gymnastics, or helped design the champion robot for a FIRST competition. No matter what happens, you're going to go to a great school and do amazing things if you keep your strong mindset.

Something else to consider is the idea of community college transfer. YOU DON’T HAVE TO GO TO A FOUR-YEAR UNIVERSITY STRAIGHT OUT OF HIGH SCHOOL. Had I been more open-minded about my college choices and researched the amazing benefits of completing the tag program, I most likely would've gone in a heartbeat. It’s not a race. You can still earn credits and save a lot of money! In the end, you might be able to go to your dream school. The best thing to do is keep an open mind, rid yourself of the stigmas surrounding certain schools, and take a chance. If you decide to wait and spend some time for self-discovery or attend community college, the world is your oyster. No matter what that letter tells you.

You’re still you.