There is an extreme vulnerability that comes with the college process. We are asked to write about our innermost dreams, reflecting on and analyzing our own identities, who we are and who we want to be. We meticulously attempt to fill out sections that have been pre-determined to be of the most value: our community service, work experience, awards, extracurriculars. We provide our academic transcripts and send in our standardized test scores.
There is a feeling of emptiness from being summed up by a few pieces of paper to be evaluated and judged. We put ourselves out there to the best of our ability, hoping that admissions officers will notice what makes us special and why we deserve to attend a particular institution. It feels almost impossible, then, not to place our personal worth on the results of these college decisions.
We must recognize that there are conditions beyond our control affecting every step of the college process. Admission officers strive to balance incoming classes, ranging from position on the soccer team to ethnicity. Not being accepted does not mean that we are not good enough, and it definitely does not mean that we have any less inherent value than someone else who may have been accepted. It just means that at that particular institution, we did not fit. Getting into a particular college cannot be the goal. College is only part of the journey, a place that can help us grow; something much more important than the location for our next four years is what we do at the college. Throughout this process, we need to keep in mind who we want to be.
As students, it is easy to fall into the trap of pursuing perfection. The premise behind this mentality is that only by “achieving” this impossible ideal can we be validated for our efforts and truly be successful. Self-worth, then, is based off others’ opinions of us, rather than our own sense of self. This will only lead to a self-perpetuating cycle of toxicity and dissatisfaction.
What we should pursue, instead, is our personal excellence. This is not quantified by what college we go to, our GPA or how long our resume is. It’s about trying as hard as we can to achieve our own personal goals, separate from how successful we are. Pursuing success is entirely different and is impossible. We are entering a world where rejection is normal. It may not be easy, but we should try our hardest to embrace it and understand it for what it truly is.