How a Closed Door Can Change Your Outlook

A student details how a closed door can change your outlook when you've been rejected from your first-choice college.

By Jeremy Ogul

March 29, 2007

How a Closed Door Can Change Your Outlook How a Closed Door Can Change Your Outlook

The dreaded small envelope. It’s white, thin and has no indication as to its contents except the return address of a college. For the high school seniors who receive it, it is almost always a rejection letter.

I opened up my mailbox the other day and discovered a small envelope from Occidental College, a liberal arts school in Los Angeles that I applied to. At first, I fooled myself into thinking it was just a request for more information or something along those lines, but after opening it, I discovered the truth: I had been wait-listed.

Because of a record number of well-qualified applicants, the admissions officers at Occidental were unable to offer me admission to the class of 2011, but they were willing to offer me a spot on the wait list. I was not devastated; I had lost interest in the school after applying. My reaction was characterized more by shock than anything else. Occidental was supposed to be one of my “match” schools, one I shouldn’t have had a problem getting into, and I didn’t get in. This wasn’t a good sign.

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Cal and UCLA both posted their admissions decisions online, so there were no dreaded small envelopes, but nevertheless, my suspicions were correct: I didn’t get in.

I told myself I wasn’t surprised, that I knew they were long shots, but I realized that deep down, I had always expected to get into at least one of those two. Naturally, I felt disappointed and a little surprised. In fact, I have gone back several times to make sure I didn’t misread. I was feeling sorry for myself until I had a bit of a reality check.

A soldier from Iraq posted an essay on a popular college discussion forum about how students who whine about not getting into their top schools need to get their priorities in order. He talked about how financially he was not able to go to college and instead joined the army. He wanted to do something with computers, but because he didn’t have a college degree, he was sent to Iraq. He saw atrocities not only of war, but of the pitiable conditions in which people lived. After returning, he was able to get into a UC-system school and has a whole new appreciation for college.

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This soldier’s story reminded me of how easy it is to get caught up in getting into the best school possible. It is so easy to split hairs over a few points difference in SAT scores or GPA that you lose sight of the bigger picture. In reality, even if you end up going to a school that’s not known across the U.S. or you don’t get any big scholarships, you are still better off than a lot of America and most of the world. Despite the pressure on students to go to college, the fact remains that a majority of Americans do not possess a bachelor’s degree.

Even though I didn’t get into one of my “reach” schools, the college I will be going to (UC Davis) is still an outstanding one, and just by getting into a college, I have earned an opportunity that most people in the world don’t get, and that is something to be proud of.

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