Dear Auntie Sparknotes,
I’m in my 4th year and I just saw the results of a recent college entrance test I took. I didn’t pass. Many of my classmates did. Yes, this makes me pathetic. I can’t take the test again. This makes me twice as pathetic as I was earlier. I wanted to get into this University so badly! I even got myself blue prayer beads— blue because this is the school color of the University. This makes me thrice as pathetic. That entrance test wasn’t the most difficult out there— I’m probably that stupid, so stupid you can throw rocks on my forehead and it’ll just go right through because, apparently, there isn’t a brain in there! (And now my dog just ate one of my favorite shoes. I am now four times as pathetic!)
I wasn’t this crazy (and pathetic) before and whenever there was bad news I’d just accept it and move on, but now… geez. It would really mean a lot if you could help me on how to cope and how to cheer up. Thank you in advance, Auntie.
Hmm...well, in the immortal words of George and Ira Gershwin: You say tomato, I say to-mah-to.
Because when you say “pathetic,” I say “hilariously self-deprecating person who has a great sense of humor, and also, a perfect excuse to go shoe shopping.”
Listen, it's great that you've been able to bounce back from previous bad news. But in this case, start out by giving yourself a break and letting yourself feel sad for a while. Not getting into your first-choice school is upsetting, especially when you're part of a generation raised to believe that you can achieve anything you want if you just work hard enough. It's a blow to find out that sometimes things just don't work out, no matter how hard you try.
So, go ahead and let yourself feel some perfectly-justifiable disappointment.
For five minutes.
Because then, it's time to cheer up. Here's why.
"Stupid" doesn't apply here. The college entrance test is not, not, NOT a measure of your intelligence; it's a measure of your compatibility with a specific set of criteria deemed important by this specific administration. Nothing more. So when you don't pass, it doesn't mean you're wrong in every way—just that you and this school weren't a good match for each other. Which means that...
Rejection, in this case, is a good thing. The right college for you is one that recognizes and appreciates your strengths, and yes, you do have strengths. Heck, I only know you via the paragraph-long letter you wrote, and I'm already impressed with your writing ability and sense of comic timing. A college you can thrive at will be impressed by those things, too.
The myth of the “right” school is a bunch of horse-hockey. There, I said it. Fact is, despite all the senior year hysteria over college applications, where you end up going just isn't that big of a deal. All you need is a campus you can enjoy living on, programs you can thrive in, and a school culture you're comfortable with. So rather than fixating on one college, realize that a) there are multiple places out there that you'll love, and b) you only need one of them to love you back.
In the end, there are things about college that'll matter for the rest of your life: the subjects you studied, the skills you acquired, the friends you made, and the learned ability to embrace opportunities and experiences no matter where you are.
What doesn't matter? The name of your school.
Now go buy a pair of really cute shoes.
Got some comfort, wisdom, or college-experienced feedback for our letter-writer? Leave it in the comments! And to get advice from Auntie, email her at email@example.com.