College Acceptance Starts From Within

College rejection letter prompts one student to evaluate the power of self-worth

Ava Young, Contributing Writer

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How many times in our teenage years do we allow ourselves to be vulnerable? We spend four years compiling a laundry list of extracurriculars and signing up for classes we can barely tolerate to boost our GPA. All the tedious preparation is leading up to the moment: finding that one special college. The campus is beautiful. The students look happy. You can really see yourself there. You will belong.

You put it all into your application:  your energy, talent, and focus.

And then you get rejected.

I have a 3.8 GPA. I did the right extracurriculars. I interviewed. Nevertheless, this week, I got rejected from my dream school–the place I was supposed to belong. I opened myself up to vulnerability. I let a room full of admissions officers decide if I was academically worthy enough to attend their college. I let them decide if I could belong. I became one of those students who let college admissions be “some sweeping judgement of their worth,” as Frank Bruni stated in “Our Crazy College Crossroads.”

In American society, people are starved for belonging. As Sebastian Junger noted in his book Tribe, Americans “need to feel connected to others.”  We seek out places where we feel we will belong. We build it up in our heads, making it the only place we can belong. We let our application put us in the most vulnerable position: a stranger deciding our fate after high school.

The rejection stung. In response, I cried. I asked the very dramatic question: why am I not good enough?

But then, as I mulled it over in my head, I came to a realization: Belonging isn’t granted through an acceptance letter. No, it comes from within ourselves and the people close to us. Belonging doesn’t only exist behind the gates of a college we think we love.

There is a direct correlation between how vulnerable we allow ourselves to be and how much we belong.

In the wake of my rejection, I found myself looking for inspiration the way one does: watching TED Talks. I stumbled across one that shifted my outlook on the whole situation. It was “The Power of Vulnerability,” by Brene Brown. In this talk, she addresses belonging: she states, “people who have a strong sense of…belonging believe they’re worthy of…belonging. That’s it.” I will take this advice.

Next fall, I will attend my second choice college at a school I love. It is not the fantasy of a school I hyped up in my mind, but it will be my school. I will belong because I know that no matter where I go I am worthy of belonging.


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College Acceptance Starts From Within