Nope. Not crap, not crud, no, not even COVID! College! For my junior year and up until about the middle of my senior year, this word was strictly prohibited. Of course, the next chapter is exciting, but it is also one of the most nerve-wracking, heart-wrenching processes to go through. Finally, you find out if the all-nighters pulled, the social events missed, the essays written, and the tests taken were worth it. It is with the weight of your world on your shoulders that you hand over your fate to admissions counselors across the nation who (in your mind) will make or break the entirety of your future. Your countless hours of blood, sweat, and tears are evaluated and accepted, waitlisted, or denied in a span of minutes. It can come down to whether or not your admissions counselor is in a good mood - once you’ve submitted your applications, it is entirely out of your hands.
The college process wreaked havoc on me, my family, and my friends. It impacted every single part of my life, and you know what? Rightfully so. As a high school junior or senior, college applications and decisions will impact the entirety of life as you know it. However, beyond doing your best in school and on your applications, it is completely beyond your control. That knowledge and the onslaught of emotion it provokes is nauseating. Seriously, I finished the process and am out the other end, but am still nauseated just thinking about it.
A lot of my friends ended up accepted into their dream schools; some encountered rejection, but found better fits; others reluctantly committed to their last choices; and some found themselves so screwed by the system that they plan to re-apply next year. It’s an incredibly broad spectrum, but nonetheless, we all made it.
How did we do it? Well, I can only speak for myself. I live by perhaps the most cliche motto out there: everything happens for a reason. Yeah… I’m that b****. It’s not that I necessarily buy into Karma and the balance of the universe or some existential divine being. It has grown on me through experience. The college process proves a perfect example: had I received the scholarship I applied for with my video, Beyond the Box, I would have been ecstatic, but would never have considered what more I could do with that message. I never would have created the #beyondthebox challenge and I never would have created this platform that has ultimately been an invaluable outlet especially amidst COVID.
A few months ago, when I found out I would not be receiving that scholarship, my reaction was… well, different to say the least. Just look for yourself:
Yeah… kind of speaks for itself.
My heart was SET on Tulane University. I took one step on campus and had that “aha” moment that I never believed in. I literally told my parents that if they shipped my stuff, I could move in that day and thrive. I just saw myself there. If you knew me during the college process, this comes as no surprise. Everyone knew I wanted Tulane - I didn’t really know how to shut up about it. There were kids who kept their college choices completely confidential until their commitment, I was their stark opposite. I got a t-shirt as a souvenir from the visit and proceeded to sleep in it every. single. night. Mind you, I refused to wash said shirt until receiving my admissions decision.
Low and behold I got in! Honestly, I would not have been surprised if my mom called and BEGGED them to admit me because she couldn’t stand the nightly stink anymore. In a dream world, I would have accepted their offer of admission on the spot. Unfortunately, I had to face reality. Tulane’s caveat: measly tuition of around $75,000 a year. I am incredibly lucky to live a very privileged life for which I am insanely grateful, however that price point was simply not feasible for me and my family; a fact that was fairly difficult for me to accept.
12 years of hard work and the only thing standing between me and my dreams coming true was finances: something I didn’t really have control over at that point. I did what I could; I applied for tons of random micro-scholarships along with both of Tulane’s full-tuition scholarships. I worked my ass off (Mom, if you’re reading this, 1.hi Mommy♡ and 2.excuse my language, but I needed the extra oomph!). Seriously, I worked SO hard. I wrote three full-length essays and planned, filmed, edited, and produced Beyond the Box with no prior experience in film. I was simultaneously working to keep up and succeed in school senior year. One of the few reasons I maintained any ounce of sanity was Nikkee Porcaro. I wouldn’t say I had NO anxiety, but No Anxiety Prep (Nikkee’s company) saved me from countless breakdowns.
I had the support and guidance necessary to put forward a strong application that accurately portrayed me. Standardized testing plays a large role in the intimidation factor of the college process. It can feel like your ability to test well can determine your range of potential schools. That thought is so terrifying that it can be paralyzing. I know that's what happened to me. I didn't even know where to start when it came time for the SAT/ACT. I knew I was academically intelligent and well versed in math, English, science, and reading, but the smallest mistake can alter your score. It's so much pressure. No Anxiety Prep gave me the tools to navigate the test and mitigate my debilitating stress over the test. Therefore, I was able to perform in a way that honestly reflected my intelligence. You have the knowledge to do well on these tests. I think that your approach, mindset, and attitude can severely affect your results. Again, there is also an undeniable element of luck. Things like the question difficulty can vary by when/where you take the test. Testing is not everyone's strong suit and THAT IS OKAY. I accredit a lot of my success to No Anxiety Prep, but I also know plenty of people who were not as fortunate with their test scores, but still found success by way of No Anxiety Prep's counsel.
All this said, testing clearly is not the sole factor in where you go to school. If it were, I think I would be in a different state right now, and honestly, I'm so glad I'm not. I'll talk more about ending up at the University of Maryland (go Terps!) in another post soon. My point here is: the college process most likely will not go the way you expect or want it to. That's why it's so taboo. Admitting that is SO difficult, and saying it out loud makes it more of a reality for you and others. However, sometimes not getting what you want is a blessing in disguise.
Some people's experience goes exactly how they had hoped, and that's great too! Even then though, my guess is they too had some bumps along the way.
At the start of my own C-word journey, I would have slapped you if you said anything along these lines to me. Like I said before, I think that's valid. I needed the time to mourn my losses and process rejections. Schools I believed to be safeties sent me letters of denial. It can be shocking and world-shattering. It makes you question yourself. I was so hard on myself - I let an admissions counselor I'd never met confirm that I was not good enough. I was a failure. But I am not.
You are not either. College is merely an interim period on your way to your own success. No matter where you go, it will be what you make of it. The college process is emotional. It can be exciting, upsetting, nerve-wracking, and so much more. Immerse yourself in those reactions. It's how we process and subsequently grow. It will make it all the more special when you look back on it. Use your resources, trust your gut, and don't let it consume you. You are more than the school you attend. It can be really easy to get caught up in where siblings, parents, role models, etc. went to school or where they want you to go to school. Sometimes you might also feel pressure to go to a school of a certain prestige or status because of your peers or fear of their perceptions. I let these things get to me and for a while I let myself forget that they don't mean sh**.
You are your priority in this process. There are some hard choices to be made and other factors to consider, but it is ultimately your future. Whatever happens in the college process, at the end of the day you are still you and you are still amazing in all of the ways YOU are. Nothing in this process alters that. You WILL do great things and you WILL end up somewhere amazing. People's commitments to their "dream schools" and congratulatory posts for others can be misleading and upsetting. It's no easy feat, but again, do your best to focus on you. You have no concept of the circumstances behind their choices. You don't know their financial status, their test scores, their GPA, the topic of their essays, and how the day of the admissions counselor reviewing their application was going. Anything you see about this process on social media is not giving you the whole picture. Keep thinking beyond those boxes and remember that no matter what you will be awesome beyond high school.