It’s funny how such a small word can make such a massive impact. For me, this word made a great influence because it seemed that everyone else got “accepted.” Or at least that’s what it felt like when everyone around me got into the colleges of their dreams. There I was: denied. Denied and completely surrounded by the air of acceptance. Denied and suffocated—even better.
Before this word echoed through my mind, my attitude toward college was positive. I researched and visited schools, sent in triple-checked applications, and felt confident in myself and my academic and extracurricular accomplishments. I was the definition of an excited high schooler ready to attend their dream college.
My world shook when my top school updated my application status. Heart beating and confidence high, I hurried to the computer and rushed to open the link. There it was—the tiny word that crushed my soul.
My heart stopped beating and a million questions ran through my head. How? What haven’t I done? Are competitive schools really this hard to get into? Why am I not good enough? Why am I deniable? I had absolutely no doubt in my mind that I was the perfect college applicant. I earned straight A’s, received academic awards, participated in several clubs and community service, plus I rode horses both individually and on a team. What more could I possibly have done?
I felt like all the work and time I put into perfecting myself and making myself the best applicant was all for nothing. Although hurt, I waited patiently for the rest of the schools to return their decisions and tried to maintain a positive attitude. To my sad surprise, several of them sent me back the same response:
It’s easy to see how this tiny word translated into a heavy, nagging feeling that never failed to leave me alone. I had no motivation to even open the letters and emails. I began thinking I’d never attend college, never mind a college I even remotely wanted to attend. At the end of the application status period, I was left with two options… both of them my “safety” schools and both of them close to home— two things I prayed to avoid. My original plan was to escape and go to a competitive school far away and develop into my own independent person. It began to register that would not happen and I had to choose one of the two schools I applied to as my last resort.
Now it came time for me to suck it up and initiate the back-back-back up plan: Boston College.
I know it sounds weird, Boston College as the safety and the place I didn’t want to go. But I felt so certain I’d get in everywhere else that it just seemed normal for me to think of it that way. I was so against attending BC that I didn’t even tour it or read up on anything about it; the first time I even saw it was when I pulled up to move in.
Gasson, the college’s famous building, glared at me as I drove by on move-in day and I made sure to glare back. “Sure,” I thought to myself as the campus flashed by through the window, “you’re pretty and all, but I still don’t want to be here… like, at alllllllll.” I rolled my eyes and let out a sad sigh in the back seat. I forced myself to face my worst fear… my not-so-dream school.
I unpacked my things with tears in my eyes. When I hugged my family, the tears seemed to explode from my eyes. I didn’t care if I looked like a crazy person or like a scared little kid. I wanted out and I was barely even in.
From day one I made my impression of BC and it wasn’t going to change. Every day, I repeated the same thing to myself and my parents every time they’d call: “I hate it and I want to leave.”
“Just give it a chance…just open yourself up to the opportunities there,” my parents would say to me. Those words flew in one ear and out the other. Only one word seemed super-glued itself to my mind, ringing through my head every time I looked at Gasson:
Freshman year proved to be a tough one. I did well academically, but not socially, personally, mentally and emotionally. I’d go home every weekend and wish I didn’t need to go back; I closed myself off from people and stayed in my room other than classes. I didn’t feel like I belonged here in terms of my comfort and happiness.
The only thing that kept me going was my trips home and my younger sister’s visits, which made me appreciate going to a school only half an hour from home. Joining the club equestrian team proved to help me get my mind off of being at school, allowing me to escape to the barn and indulge in my happiness once a week. Other than those two things, however, BC still wasn’t my place and I convinced myself it would never be.
Winter break was a blessing. I stayed at home for a month with my family and I loved it. But for some reason I had this feeling, a small feeling that confused me… excitement. Why did I feel excited to go back to school? What? A switch flipped in my mind—not all the way, but only halfway. I had no idea why I felt this way, especially after convincing myself that I hated Boston College and it hated me.
Second semester went better than I expected. I started to almost unconsciously do things and meet people and kind of enjoy myself. I confused myself at this point but just kept going with the flow of things. At the end of the year, I realized how much I let feeling denied and completely deniable define me. I can’t lie, the word still makes me shudder and annoys me to think about along with all of its baggage, but it’s an improvement.
This year, I continue to attend BC. Even though I still don’t fawn over Gasson or wholeheartedly obsess over the school, it’s better than day one. I try to open myself up to new experiences and try to enjoy them. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t—but I know it’s okay not to.
I realize it’s totally okay not to be okay, and it’s fine not to feel completely in love with my college. The best I can do is make some effort to help myself or have a positive and open energy.
I am blessed to receive an education, and I am glad I am starting to feel some sense of belonging. Although I understand I may have been unreasonable in how much I hated BC, I still challenge it to prove to me (and challenge myself to prove to myself) that I can make it, no matter if it’s my dream school or not-so-dream school.
Today, I repeat a new word to myself every day, even if some days it feels hard to: