It was love at first sight.
Your heart skipped a beat the moment you approached. You had seen countless other colleges, but nothing compared. You walked up to the front door of the Admissions Office just as a student tour guide led a group on a tour. The tour guide smiled self-assuredly and said, “You are going in the right direction.” Did he read your mind?
That day on campus was magical. You didn’t care that it was 90 degrees in the shade. You didn’t care that you didn’t see any college students on campus during that August day. You didn’t pay attention to all the requirements that would make you take classes you didn’t want to take, nor did you fully grasp the fact that their admit rate was shockingly low. You even brushed off the fact that after asking the receptionist if you could say hello to your admissions officer, she replied, “We don’t do that here.”
It didn’t matter. You were in love.
Months after that visit, you still felt giddy with excitement. There was only one option. You had to apply “early.” If you got admitted, you were going. You blocked out every other college you had seen, only focusing on that one college that stole your heart. You spent weeks writing and re-writing the essay on the college’s supplement. It didn’t matter that you had to write a whole other essay. You would do anything to let them know how much you wanted to attend.
When everything was just so, you submitted your application. You put your heart and soul into that application. Your parents and guidance counselor recommended that you apply to other colleges while you waited the six weeks for your decision. But how could you apply to other colleges without hearing back from your top choice? You told them that’s like turning your back on the love of your life. So you waited.
On the day decisions were released, you opened up the admissions portal and read the first six words: “We are sorry to inform you…” You were denied. Just like that. You didn’t need to read the rest of the letter. It wasn’t a love letter. It was a let’s-just-be-friends letter. You felt like your large-screened Apple computer came crashing down on your chest to crush your dreams. You were heartbroken.
Sadness gave way to anger over the next 24 hours. And, within a few days after that, you picked up the pieces of your Apple computer, and decided that college didn’t deserve you. Your mom always told you that “true love” is when it’s mutual—when they love you as much as you love them.
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You then remembered receiving a handwritten note from the admissions officer who interviewed you at that other college, and started working on their supplement on a whim. The essay was actually easier to write than you thought. You submitted the application with a glimmer of hope, and then submitted five more applications in a matter of days. This time around it felt different. You weren’t love-struck. You were honest and discerning about the process. Those colleges didn’t have the same allure as you-know-who, but then again, they seemed a lot more like you.
Months later, you got into a few of those colleges. Your mom, always-the-optimist, said, “You just need one to love you back.” She was right. When you returned to campus for the admitted students’ day for that other college, you were greeted with the warmest hug from the admissions officer who read your application.
She remembered your interview. She remembered your application. She couldn’t wait to congratulate you on your acceptance. When she asked if you had made up your mind, you told her you weren’t sure yet.
But deep down, you knew. You knew that you were appreciated there. You knew that as much allure as your first choice college had, it was more lust than love. You knew that of all the places, this college was actually the place that would value, nurture, and groom you for greatness.
That’s the thing about this process. It’s easy to get swept away by the allure of a college. But in the end, the right match is sometimes just waiting in the wings. If you have a choice to be just any student at a college or the student at another college who will make an impact and be impacted, where will you choose? Lust or love? It’s a hard choice to make. Sometimes you have to be jolted to know what really matters.
College isn’t a one-sided affair. It goes both ways. If the college doesn’t love you as much you love them, your experience won’t be as meaningful. A college’s reputation isn’t the ultimate companion. But true love is.