If you’re reading this and you applied Early Decision to Penn, or to any other university – I know exactly how you feel. Even though it was almost exactly a year ago now, I can still be brought back in a second to those final few weeks, then days, then hours of anxiously awaiting my decision. Everything seemed to hinge on that moment, opening my email to a confirmation or rejection.
A year later, it is easy for me to say that whatever you see on the screen in that moment will not determine the trajectory of your life. Even more importantly, it is not a confirmation of your self worth or everything you have worked so hard for the past eighteen years. All the work, time, effort, blood, sweat, and tears you have put in to whatever you’re passionate about has not led up to this moment of a college acceptance or rejection – it has made you who you are, and that cannot be taken away from you.
It is easy to compare yourself to others, whether they’ve received better news or worse, and judge your own intelligence, creativity, hard work, accomplishments, or even self worth against theirs. But let me tell you something – even though college applications and the admissions process are thorough, they are also inevitably flawed. A thousand essays and lists of activities and test scores could never begin to express your innate kindness, honesty, charisma, creativity, thoughtfulness, the kind of brother, sister, teammate, or friend you are. And those qualities are all far more telling and important in life than your SAT scores or a couple six hundred and fifty word essays.
As I said, it is easy for me to say all of this after having received good news on Early Decision Day. But after seeing all my friends this year, spread across the country at incredibly different schools, and hearing their stories of their college experiences so far, both academic and social, I can see myself at any one of their schools, and I truly believe I would have found my place there, maybe even more than at Penn. I am happy here, but I believe there is a wide range of schools that would have brought out the best of me in different ways. Three of my best friends, three of the smartest, funniest, most unique, passionate, and thoughtful individuals I know, all received bad news in December shortly after I received my news. And I am not making this up in the slightest when I say they absolutely love the places they are at now, even having gone into the school year hesitantly, and now cannot imagine going anywhere else.
I will leave you with some words my dad told me on the morning of Early Decision day, because they somehow really did make me feel better even in my anxious, desperate, last few hours of waiting: “Remember, you’re going to be a huge success twenty-five years from now and wherever you go, that school will be proud to claim you as an alumna. Today Penn gets their shot, but it’s just one small step along the way.”
This is a small step in your journey to become the best version of yourself. Remember that you are not an acceptance or rejection – you are built from eighteen years of hard work and friendship with others, the support of your family and friends, every triumph and defeat, every book you’ve read and place you’ve explored, every exciting discovery and every lesson you’ve learned. Know that, and hold on to it proudly. Stay humble, stay considerate, and stay hopeful, no matter what news you receive.
Thinking of you all, and wishing you the best of luck!