It was at this time last year my mother nearly threw away my first college acceptance letter. Yes, you heard me correctly, she nearly threw it away. UNC Wilmington had been sending me tons, and I mean TONS, of advertisements for their school, so my mother assumed the gold and teal envelope was yet another ad to be recycled, trashed, or collaged onto my vision board. It was my younger brother who saved the day, and my acceptance letter.
Nowadays, colleges make it almost painfully difficult to get it. First, you need the grades. I had a high GPA and still didn’t make it into some public and private universities, which led me to thinking GPA really isn’t the be all end all. What matters is how many classes you take, if they’re AP or Honors or Standard, and if you took any from a community college or university near you. Having a vast array of high level classes from your high school and from a college near you gives your college application a competitive edge.
But wait, that’s not all! Need I even discuss the plethora of volunteer hours and service projects colleges beg to see? I volunteered with a service club at my school, worked on mission trips and other excursions with my church, and spent two years contributing at a fair trade store in my hometown. I’d participated in volunteer work all through middle school and even spent one summer chipping in as a junior volunteer at the local hospital. I genuinely love helping people, but sometimes I felt as though I was volunteering only to enhance my college app. And don’t even get me started on extra curriculars. Half the clubs I joined my freshman year were disbanded because they didn’t have enough members or the seniors got lazy and didn’t feel like hosting meetings anymore. So by the time junior year rolled around I could say that I had a job, played volleyball for the school and for a traveling team, and participated in two school-based activities: spoken word and SERVE-Interact.
I applied to six schools. Originally I was only going to apply to five, but everyone around me was applying to ten, or fifteen, or twenty six for crying out loud, so I felt inadequate. I hastily applied to Oglethorpe University because it looked like Hogwarts. Rash decision making, I know, but I’m a Harry Potter geek through and through (I later found out that Oglethorpe has a great science program, if you’re interested check it out here). You wanna know how many schools I actually got into? Four. I didn’t get into my top two schools. I felt cheated for the longest time. I made up all sorts of excuses for not getting in – I didn’t take enough AP classes, my adviser told me to take too many arts courses instead of science, the top 20% of my school was going to my first choice and UNC Chapel Hill couldn’t take any more students from my high school (blatantly untrue, by the way), and my favorite excuse of all time: my valedictorian didn’t get into Duke so of course I wouldn’t get in!
I’m here to tell you that the saying “when one door closes another door opens” is the best thing you’ll ever hear when getting your acceptance (or denial) letters. Why? Because it’s so true. I thought I’d had two doors slammed in my face when I didn’t get accepted to UNC or Duke, but looking back on it, I’m happy I didn’t get accepted there. I ended up going to the University of Georgia. It’s about twice the size of Carolina, but just as pretty. I’ve met hundreds of new people from all over the globe, gotten the chance to watch world renowned orchestras perform, and have been introduced to authors, such as Alice Walker, and entrepreneurs, such as Erin Condren. The University of Georgia was but a blip on my radar when I applied to colleges my junior year, but now that I’m here I don’t know of anywhere else in the world I’d rather be. So for all you high schoolers out there, getting in isn’t the end of the world. You might be like me and end up somewhere that’s a better fit for you than originally thought, or you might end up like some of my friends who transferred in to their top choice school. Any way you look at it, if there’s a way to get you where you need to be, you’ll find it, I promise.