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Let’s cut to the chase: I was rejected by my EA school. So in the middle of December, I had a little bit of a mini-breakdown. Here’s how things went down (they aren’t pretty).

1. Denial

There’s something about looking at the email that’s actually a bit surreal. It’s not a physical rejection letter — college admissions offices don’t have the time for that, usually, because it’s December. I couldn’t be bothered to open my snail mail half the time, and I’m sure these people would much rather be writing Christmas cards to their families than writing something this inauspicious.

My mailbox and my email inbox on a daily basis. (flickr.com)

My mailbox and my email inbox on a daily basis. (flickr.com)

But no, I just sat there, dazed, for a good five minutes. Was this really real? Was this really happening to me? It was just an email though. No letter. Maybe they made a mistake? There was that one time that Carnegie Mellon sent mistake acceptances to a gazillion people, right? Mistake rejections are a thing, yes? Computers can’t be trusted, y’know?

Ten minutes passed. I got up and back to doing whatever I was doing. Thirty minutes passed. I checked my email again — no followup, no apology, no explanation. Just a polite apology, contrite and cardinal red (guess where I applied?).

It sank in: for the lack of a better word, I was rejected.

2. Anger

It sounds unreasonable, but I had negativity inside of me and I had to let it out in some way. It was pointless to get mad at Stanford, so I got mad at the next marginally relevant target: me.

Why didn’t I take AP Art History like all the other kids? Why did I have to be a peer counselor? Why had I chosen marching band over something more erudite, more fancy? Future Business Leaders was totally a thing but I had no interest in business — ugh, I should’ve forced myself into it anyway. Why wasn’t I louder, crazier, more Type A? Why had I ever allowed myself to be anything but the best? Why did I suck at things?

Why couldn't I have had smarter parents? (freestockphotos.name)

Why couldn’t I have had smarter parents? (freestockphotos.name)

Think I sound stupid and whiny? I sure did. That’s why I eventually stopped being angry. Anger can sometimes be productive, but this…or at least how I was using it, was not one of its productive uses.

3. Bargaining

As a person, I’m guilty of comparing myself to other people. I still am, but nowhere near as much as I was in high school. It wasn’t enough that I did well; I had to do better than everyone else. I’m so glad I don’t think that way anymore.

This next phase was kind of evil, but I had to make do with my reality. Anger, as we’ve established, doesn’t work, so I’m sniffing around for some other healing salve that’ll get me over things. This third phase involved other people.

I began scrolling through Facebook madly, looking for any sort of sign that other people had also been rejected by their EA schools. There was some twisted logic inside me that perhaps knowing that other people didn’t do any better would validate myself. At least he didn’t get in either. I’ll feel better if you also rejected him. Things like that.

Let's all point and laugh at Joey, who didn't get in. Nevermind the fact that I didn't get in either. (imgflip.com)

Let’s all point and laugh at Joey, who didn’t get in. Never mind the fact that I didn’t get in either. (imgflip.com)

This phase went on for a couple of days — at school, I never asked anyone outright, but you could bet that my ears were ultra-receptive to the words “Stanford” and “rejection.” And I heard what I wanted, I guess; nobody who applied there from my school had gotten in. A couple people had gotten waitlisted, but no acceptances.

Call it schadenfreude, call it being a jerk — but that took the edge off of things a little bit.

Was I happy about that? No.

4. Depression

Other people’s sadness is no productive way to get rid of my own, and it really showed. The thrill of “bargaining” with other people eventually wore off and for a couple of days, I was sad. I had spent so long trying to run from it, but it finally caught up to me.

Not that anybody could tell, really. I was still functioning. I was still talking, still laughing, still making small talk and still eating. But all of it was tinged with that familiar feeling of “not enough” — I wasn’t good enough, smart enough, strong enough, ambitious enough. The thought that hit me the hardest was that on that same day, people had gotten acceptances. While I was shocked, there were some other people out there who were screaming their heads off in joy. And they were better — to Stanford, at least.

But I guess this part was when I actually started healing. It’s kind of hard to move past negativity (for me, at least) if I keep refusing to acknowledge it. Once I allowed myself to start feeling what I felt, the knot in my chest suddenly began to unravel.

5. Acceptance

Hey, I still have regular decision apps to fill and more opportunities to chase. I have a future that’s decades long, and things are going to go wrong. Sometimes it’s my fault, and sometimes it isn’t. But what’s important is that I learn from them when I should and pick myself back up each time.

Sometimes I’ll be better than other people, and sometimes I’ll be worse — but I’ll always be me, and there are going to be people (and colleges) out there who will love me for me. And that’s where I’ll be able to grow and change the most; that’s where I’ll be happiest. If some of the schools don’t think I’ll be right for them, that’s not necessarily always an indicator of my worth. Just a matter of my compatibility.

I guess the bottom line here is that I am enough for myself, and that’s really all I’ll have to ever be. Nobody else matters.

I mean — a lot of the above was only written in hindsight, from my perspective as a college junior now. But I did eventually work past the EA rejection as a high school senior in time for the holidays. It’s hard to be upset when everyone’s getting ready to stuff their faces, give each other gifts, and love one another (and maybe that’s why EA results were designed that way).

They sure don’t call it comfort food for no reason, anyway.

Jeanette Si

Jeanette is part of the class of 2018 at Cornell University, double majoring in Information Science and China Studies. She hails from a public high school in Rancho Cucamonga, California, and enjoys geocaching, skiing, and gaming in her spare time. Admissions season has given her humility, resilience, and the ability to answer ten different prompts with one personal statement.