For some of us, it’s that frenzy time of the year (again): college applications. I’m extra familiar with this topic because this is my second year applying for US universities. Up until then, I had considered myself a competent student. I had really good grades, and participated in lots of extracurricular activities – dominating a few of them. When college applications time came around, I was pretty confident. I applied to a total of 13 US universities – and I received a rejection letter for every one of them.
When I got over the shock, I scrutinized every mistake I had made to lead to my ‘disastrous’ result: I did not have a great IB (International Baccalaureate) score, I applied for financial aid to all the colleges, I didn’t apply for any ‘safeties’ – the list goes on. There were several things (and people) that I could blame on my failure to get accepted into a college, and I suppose that made me feel less guilty at the time.
At the end of the day, however, there is no one to blame but myself. No one made me do anything, and no one ever can. My mistake was narrowing my college list on only the top-notch elite universities that I, along with my family, believed would give me the best opportunities in my future. Real life is obviously not that simple. A ticket to a great college does not mean a ticket to success. Nothing, and no college, can ever change the person that you are inside. It is nothing more but a means for you to receive your higher education.
In many ways, I am glad this unexpected turn gave me the time to reflect upon myself. This bridge year has not ‘changed’ me: I am still the same person. But my intrinsic interests and outlook on life have changed (I have spend this year learning and educating myself; I plan to travel more next year). I can now list a number of things that I truly enjoy doing outside school. I no longer fear that I’m not ‘social’ enough – I’m one step closer to accepting myself. Yes, I am still insecure, shy, naive in many ways, and whatnot. But my life is no longer confined to one vision. I know that there are endless opportunities for everyone out there, and it will be me who discovers them, not my college name.
As of right now, I can’t lie – I am quite anxious about writing my college essays. I have written a dozen drafts and listed endless ideas for just a few essays, and it’s only the beginning. But that’s alright – I am doing it more for myself than for the colleges I am applying to. The only person I should be proving myself to is myself. Because ultimately, your happiness and satisfaction is what matters. College is just a name – the social setting, campus, geographic perks, and everything else that comprises the whole feel of the environment besides the academics is what matters. If you could move to any city in the world, you don’t look for the one with the best job offer and discard everything else. You take into account all the factors that you know will make you happy in that place, and choose the one that fits you best.
Lately, I have been living by quotes that remind me of what makes life meaningful. This is one that I saw on a friend’s wall:
“Happiness is in the heart, not in the circumstances.”
In other words – even when life is shit, how you choose to react to it is what truly matters.