It’s no secret that college is a massive investment, given it’s one that’s supposed to pay off in the long run. That’s why I had such a hard time choosing to attend the University of Notre Dame. Compared to the scholarships I was offered from other schools, Notre Dame was going to cost quite the pretty penny—make that millions of pretty pennies. Despite my savings account’s pleas, I still figured that the financial aid given was enough and it would all be worth it when the famed “Notre Dame network” secured me a job.
Beyond all of those pretty, pretty pennies there was an extra cost tacked onto my college education: my confidence. Little did I know that I would no longer be the shining little star I previously was. I was never cocky, but I had a pretty accomplished high school career. After going to state in cross country, being a part of student council, scoring an ace ACT score and earning a flawless GPA, I considered myself above average.
Don’t get me wrong, before college I definitely struggled with some confidence issues. My perfectionist tendencies led me to constantly critique myself; race times were never good enough, I was never pretty enough, etc. However, college amplified all of this self-hate, beginning with what I like to call my “Spring Break of Rejection” in which both Yale and Stanford gave me the small envelope (aka the big no). It actually wasn’t even an envelope, but rather a brief, dream-crushing e-mail. This left me with state schools and Notre Dame, and I already explained that decision-making thought process.
So I headed to Notre Dame, and all of the sudden my confidence jumped off a cliff. Everyone here is smart. Everyone here is talented. Everyone here is high-achieving. All that I worked for no longer made me special, it just made me not a complete wash-out. That was a tough realization, and when I say tough, I mean tear-inducing.
I tried so hard to be the student I once was. I figured I would apply for Class Council and Student Government since I did that in high school, but then I was rejected. I was far from good enough to walk-on to a D1 team and so I no longer had cross-country to give me tangible results and rewards. I couldn’t even apply for a scholar program because multiple teachers wouldn’t write me a letter of recommendation. All of the sudden, I was a nobody–so insignificant that a letter of recommendation, which I had gotten several of in high school, was out of my reach.
My newfound low self-esteem seeped into the rest of my life. I had trouble speaking up in class and making friends. That worthless feeling was crippling, so when I went home I was stoked. There people applauded me for going to Notre Dame. All of the sudden I was back to being the high achiever. But this no longer satisfied me. It all seemed insignificant compared to the high achievements students at Notre Dame have made. I thanked them, but was definitely aware of how humbled I had become.
Sometimes I still resent how coming to Notre Dame lowered my confidence so much. I still cry when I’m rejected from positions or programs I apply for, and it still stings when I realize how afraid I am to speak up in class or social situations. But, much like the monetary investment, I’m assuming that it will eventually pay off.
Now, starting my sophomore year, I’m trying to start from scratch. I put more work into things I apply for and feel more rewarded when I achieve something. It’s still a work-in-progress, but I plan on rebuilding a more genuine confidence here at Notre Dame. The outcome is TBD, but I’m counting on the loss of money and confidence to lead to something better than the life I had in high school, which really shouldn’t be too terribly difficult.