Make Your Fairytale Ending, Even If It Takes a Seven-Hour Drive to Tally

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Have you ever visited a place and immediately felt at home? Me neither, until I stepped foot onto Florida State University’s campus. My junior year of high school I went on a field trip to tour all the schools in Florida. Not to sound cliche, but during this trip, I found my home. Experiencing so much peace in an unknown place felt strange at first, but I found comfort in those red bricks. The warm smiles as I walked through Landis Green and Ms. Killings greeting me with an “I love you,” as I walked into the dining hall for the first time, assured me that this is where I was meant to be.

I knew then I bled garnet and gold. The universe, however, did not agree with me.

I refreshed the “Check Your Status” page about a hundred times on decision day, only for Florida State University to reject me. Did I spend thirty minutes in the girl’s locker room crying after reading, “We regret to inform you…”? Yes. Nonetheless, after warm hugs and encouraging words from my Student Government Advisor and FSU alum, Ms. Scott, I decided to find out why they denied me admission. She urged me to remain persistent and not give up. If I truly and desperately wanted Florida State, I needed to remain hopeful. However, I dreaded contacting admissions, terrified of receiving bad news.

I called the Office of Admissions. They informed me my FASFA did not reflect a “financially-in-need” student and therefore I did not qualify for the CARE Program. The Center for Academic Retention and Enhancement (CARE) specifically caters to first-generation students who do not possess the necessary funds to receive a secondary education. Because of my family life and our economic situation, I knew the information was incorrect.

In hopes to file an appeal, I mailed documents to Florida State University to further prove my financial situation. A month passed, and I still had not heard from Florida State. I called the Office of Financial Aid only to find out they never received any documents on my behalf. The disappointment I felt was overwhelming but we all know the good things in life never, ever come easy. In fear of them not receiving the records for the second time, I not only faxed the papers but I drove seven hours to Tallahassee to personally deliver the paperwork to the CARE Office. It was the longest seven hours of my life. I encountered moments of intense doubt, wondering if I should just turn around. But my mom raised me to not give up.

I remember the tremendous anxiety I felt as I exited the elevator to the third floor and approached the receptionist.  Both my palms and forehead dripped with sweat. The receptionist greeted me with a smile. When I asked her for the Director of the CARE Program, Mr. Starke, she told me his schedule was booked for the entire day.

I replied, my voice firm, “I drove seven hours by myself from Fort Lauderdale, and I will wait for him all day if I have to.” She understood the urgency in my voice and immediately went to find him.

Within 10 minutes, there I sat in his office with an enormous lump in my throat. I physically could not breathe, so much so that Mr. Starke said, “Breathe, it’s okay.” Internally, I felt myself screaming at the top of my lungs. My future depended on my meeting with him.

After listening to my story, Mr. Starke promised to present my case to the board for a reevaluation. He said he realized how badly I wanted to be accepted to Florida State University if I was willing to get in the car and drive the seven hours Tallahassee by myself. Whether it was seven hours or fifteen, it didn’t matter to me. I found my home, and I would not stop until I could call myself a Seminole. On March 2nd, 2017, that “I regret to inform you” changed into “Congratulations! You are now a Nole!”

The process of getting accepted into FSU taught me that life is nothing but obstacles, one after another, after another. Nonetheless, if you want something bad enough you will break all barriers to reach your dearest dreams and eventually they will come true. If it does not come to you, I promise something better is on the way. Here I am a year later, on a full ride to the school of my dreams, just finishing my freshman year of college. Difficult would be an understatement, but I got my fairytale ending when I got accepted into FSU. I will make my four years here the best fairytale anyone has ever seen.

Summer Cortes is a sophomore at the beautiful Florida State University.
She has a deep passion for all things that make us warm inside - specifically, dogs, traveling, and very long naps.
Her dreams are to one day become a screenwriter and a director.

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