Yale, MIT, Johns Hopkins, UCLA, Berkeley, Brown, Harvard, Duke, Columbia, Cornell, Princeton... I did not get into any of the colleges I wanted to go to; I had 21 flat out rejections.
First of all, I am disappointed. For the past two years, I have spent countless hours studying and serving extracurriculars. I dreamed about what my life would be like at those elite schools, wishing that at least one of them would say yes. When I opened my last 'View Update' from Stanford, I felt like everything I had worked so hard for was meaningless.
I've been rethinking the process a little for the last few days. I was emotionally invested in going to those elite schools; I applied because I told myself to do so (I want to be in the best place academically), not because my teachers and parents asked me to. I thought (and still think) that moving away and immersing myself in a high achieving environment surrounded by ambitious people would make me a better person and set me on the path to success.
Truth to be told, I don't resent them for those rejections. They gave me a platform to showcase my personal highlights, and I did. I am confident enough to say that I performed at the level I was capable of. The fact that I didn't get any offers... well, it has a lot of variables that are not within my control.
- What did I do wrong
"So I just applied to schools that are never going to admit me?"
After it was all over, I asked myself, "how did I end up in this situation?" "Was it because of a lack of effort with too many distractions like girls and YouTube videos?" "Am I not worthy enough and had an unrealistic expectation given my grades, test scores, and essays?" I talked with my parents, friends, and school counsellor, asking them about their observations of my high school effort. Their answer was uniform, I did do good enough, and I was ready to go to those colleges. I excelled in every class, I took on leadership positions, I built relationships with teachers, and I wrote from my genuine heart...
Seeing my peers posting their college offers on social media, I felt like I was the only few whose dreams didn't come true. The reality was harsh. I worked my ass off, I wouldn't say I deserve to go to one, but I definitely thought I had a good chance. There isn't an awful lot that I'd like to change for my next go, except trying to get more help from an agent, do more research on those colleges, and take better advantage of what I have got.
- What did I learn
For such a long time, I had put my happiness on attending an Ivy League school because getting accepted by one of them means terrific networks. An acceptance letter means opportunities for change. Their global community could change me as a person; who I meet, how I think, and what I believe. All the time I could have spent partying, I focused on college applications for the promise of a brighter future.
For me, the worst part of this experience was that I thought, "no matter how hard I worked, it would always be for nothing." How dare I imagine outcompeting others in the wide range of international applicants pool? There are thousands of Asian and Indian kids who are better than me academically (don't mention if they are legacy or ethnic minorities or not). Neither do I have a comparative advantage over those domestic American applicants because they will always be prioritized (which I totally understand because those universities are supposed to provide education firstly to their own people).
But perhaps, it wasn't for nothing. Most people fail. Everything happens for a reason; my ego was hit, and I was crushed for a few days, but I am still here. Although I now have to commit to my safety school, it's not the end of the world. It's me who defines my success, not the school I attend. When I look back on this experience, I can always say, "I did something significant back then..."
- It's not the end of this story
To be honest, I am not emotionally in pain. I've realized that there's a whole other tier of intellect above me, but I still believe in myself. After all, this life story made me more mature; I gained clarity on where I am and what I want in the future. I will keep in mind that it's not just about the end (getting into an Ivy); it is also about engaging with the world around me.
Hard work pays off; I just need the courage to pick myself up from the ground, pack my bag, and keep going. Maybe I will never get into any of my desired universities straight out of high school as a freshman, but I can still go to a UK university and apply the year later as a transfer student. After 10 years, my credential will be forgotten, but from this opportunity I embraced, I got some like-minded friends and found my passion that I am happy of pursuing – writing, reading, and sports. I will definitely reapply next year with better credentials. I miss 100% of the shots if I don't take it; what have I got to lose.