Denial, Denial, Denial, Denial, Denial: the Five Stages of College Decision Grief (March 28, 2014)

This week has made me thankful that I am a high school junior, which is impressive considering how painful junior year generally is. Anyone who is a high school senior or a parent of one knows that this week, many college decisions came out. The air in my school was heavy with dread and disappointment as e-mails shattered dreams. A few happy students floated around amidst the bubble of sadness, but for the most part, students focused on their rejections, not their acceptances.

Why? Why can’t we celebrate our acceptance letters, not our rejection letters? Why can’t we be thankful that we get the opportunity to receive an education at all?

The college admissions process is subjective. Getting rejected from your dream school doesn’t mean you’re an idiot just like getting accepted to your dream school doesn’t mean you’re a genius. A rejection means the person reading your application felt you weren't the best fit for that school. That's all.

An example from my recent life that highlights how subjective awards or acceptances are is that I recently found out I won a national Silver Medal in the 2014 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards for Journalism. I also won 3 regional Silver Keys and 2 regional Honorable Mentions. However, those results don't tell the whole story. Two years ago, I submitted three of those pieces to the 2012 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. They didn’t even receive Honorable Mentions. At the time, I felt horrible and like my dream of becoming a writer was slipping away.

But two years later, those same pieces with no new edits won two Silver Keys and an Honorable Mention. Nothing changed except for the people who happened to be judging my work. My “bad” writing suddenly became “good.” I should feel like a better writer now, right? But I don't. Instead, I now realize that judging myself based on the subjective opinion of others is stupid. Those pieces are no better now than they were two years ago. That also means they were no worse back then than they are now.

Don’t attach yourselves to rejection letters. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you’re worthless. In five years, maybe you’ll get into the graduate school of your dreams. Maybe in forty, you’ll win a Nobel Prize. Maybe you won't but you'll make incredible friends and be with a family you love.

Be proud of trying and remember that you’re smart.