You can say I almost peaked in high school…almost. I held average grades but made sure to get involved in several school organizations and clubs. I thought that would suffice for getting into college—cue the laugh track. See, “college talk” never came up in discussion with my family up until the second semester of my sophomore year. And when senior year came around, I lost all sense of direction.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Dickens definitely hit the nail on the head with that quote. The parts I liked? The parties got rowdier, the people got friendlier and the workload got lighter. But my senior year started its downward spiral when college acceptance season began.
My friends started finding out which campus they’d wreak havoc on for the next four years. I applied to Florida State University, the University of South Florida, University of Alabama and a bunch of schools in New York City. I got accepted into the out-of-state schools I applied to, but they cost way too much. But it didn’t matter to me. I only cared about one in-state university.
For the sake of my readers, I’ll forget about my temporary embarrassment that the following story causes me. In a few words, I got rejected by FSU—a cringe worthy statement if I’ve ever seen one. The day the acceptance letters came out, I heard a classmate scream with excitement after receiving hers. I felt my heart sink to my stomach.
Later in the year, my school hosted “college day” during Senior Week. Everyone decked out in sweatpants, sweaters, quarter zips and PJs for the college they would soon attend. The night before, I stayed up dreading the thought of wearing the colors and the logo of everyone else’s backup school. My dad found me lying in bed having one of those “my life is over” breakdowns. I always pictured myself cheering at all the FSU football games, killing it in their fantastic communications program and walking through the gorgeous brick buildings on a massive campus. I never thought I would get denied.
Instead of moping all night, we sat down at my kitchen table and made a new master plan. We looked through all the Florida schools I hadn’t applied to, and stumbled upon the University of Florida website. I researched all night and looked at everything UF had to offer and completely fell in love with the school. I realized what I searched for at FSU I could find at UF. And UF seemed even better. It had the same traditional brick buildings, huge campus, amazing sports program, impressive school spirit, plus an impressive journalism program. I wore a Gator sweater the next day.
When graduation arrived, I felt jealous of all my friends (obviously). Everyone planned on going to UF, FSU, New York University, the University of Miami, the works. And where was I headed? To a local university where I’d end up stuck in the same bubble I found myself stuck in during high school.
My freshman year of college was miserable. Living in a dorm felt like a waste of money since I only drove 20 minutes to school everyday. Traffic made life even worse; I left campus the second classes ended. I couldn’t meet new people, join clubs and go to after school meetings. Knowing it wouldn’t take long until I got an actual taste of the college experience, I brushed off the misery.
Still, seeing my friends’ pictures on Instagram gave me major FOMO. Throughout the year, they posted pictures of their new lives. Who would ever think I would feel jealous of not taking a headshot of myself wearing a suit with a blurry background to share on Facebook? Every UF student I had on social media posted Snapchats of lattes from Pascal’s Coffeehouse, slushies from Fat’s and crazy videos at fraternity tailgates.
Luckily for me, my time at the local university quickly came to an end. On March 1, 2016, I received my acceptance letter to UF and ugly cried for four hours. After seeing the word “congratulations” on my screen, I knew nothing would stop me from attending in the fall. That summer, I took eight courses just to get the full 60 credits I needed to transfer. Pro tip: You don’t need 60 credits to apply, you only need them by the time you start your first semester at UF. It took more work than I’d ever put into anything before. But it felt beyond worth it.
I almost turned into that kid that didn’t excel in college but had enough high school stories to last a lifetime. It sounds cheesy, but sometimes it takes lows to create highs. Now as a student at UF, I’m glad I didn’t get into FSU. Aside from the obvious reasons, the rejection pushed me to become my best self. I’ve even compiled great college stories to tell. And I have an appointment to take professional headshots next week. I’ve never felt happier than I am now. It sure is great to be a Florida Gator.