Applying for college was easy. I had the SAT scores, I had the leadership positions and I followed my passions to the extreme, spending hours each week at lessons and practices. It seemed like I ticked off every box on an admissions officer’s checklist. After all, I had worked towards this moment for my entire life—now I finally had the chance to prove myself. I had so many choices. Until my financial circumstances made the choice for me.
I found myself like everyone else I knew: at a big state school, the University of Florida.
I was afraid of getting lost in the crowd. I had worked so hard in high school to set myself apart, and I had a major chip on my shoulder that I ended up in Gainesville just like everybody else. Why did I suffer through 15 AP classes if I couldn’t even get into an Ivy? I remember going to Preview and thinking to myself, “I don’t want to be here.” Gainesville was hot, bug-ridden and way too close to home for someone who wanted to go as far away as possible. The thought of spending the next three years of my life there sounded absolutely miserable. I was doomed to live out my worst-case college scenario. I prepared myself for the worst.
I spent that whole summer trying to be excited about moving into my new home in the fall. My parents bought Gator gear and I tried to smile and make the best of things, wallowing in my own self-pity and being dramatic AF at every turn. Maybe I’d transfer. Maybe, by some miracle, I’d be taken off the waitlist for another school. Maybe there’d been a mistake. I remember sitting in my bed late at night and thinking about why this happened to me. “Why am I being forced to go to a top 10 university?” I’d choke out between tears. If you can sense a little bit of sarcasm here, that’s intentional.
Luckily for me, the worst never came. I stepped onto campus and made friends that I will have for the rest of my life. I took courses that made me excited to head to class, and joined activities that made my time in college feel worthwhile. I cheered on the Gators from the sidelines of the Swamp, and found my new little favorite breakfast spot right down the street. Gainesville became home, because I let it.
I didn’t want to go to UF because I felt like I didn’t have a choice. It took me a while to realize that I did: I had the choice to make the best of things and excel at my new university, or to sulk and lose the best three years of my life. I think you know which one I chose.