This blog post was written in late January 2022. It was not posted until now because the college admissions process was not finished until May 2022.
My feelings about college have fluctuated over time.
Up until middle school, I never really thought about college. It was always so far into the future that I never thought to ask myself if that’s the future I wanted. And I’m glad I didn’t - I had plenty of other things to think about and explore back then.
Contrary to this, there was always an exception: Stanford. Throughout my childhood, my parents always told me that Stanford was the best school in the world. Since I lived close by, I visited frequently and saw the beauty of the campus many times. Even way back then, I knew that Stanford was the college I wanted to go to. I still remember my papers from 4th grade, reading how my younger self wanted to go to Stanford when he grew up. It was my dream school, and still is to this day.
Starting in high school, it felt like everyone around me was just gearing up for college. Everyone was taking AP tests, SAT/ACT tests, SAT subject tests, just all kinds of tests that I wasn’t aware of. Meanwhile, I paid no attention, partly because my school provided no support in guiding that realm of high school academics, but also because I didn’t want to think about it.
As deadlines for standardized tests came closer and my GPA started to matter more, I began to resent the idea of college. I was scared of it - not just the idea of living alone but also all the torturous work that was involved with getting accepted into a good school. I’ve never been a great test-taker, and I sucked at reading, writing, and math. Over time, I tried to convince my parents that I could succeed without going to school and convinced myself into denial of needing any form of higher education. Though I believed what I was saying and still do to a certain degree, I knew the real reason why I was advocating for dropping out so much was that I was scared.
Instead of doing what everyone else was doing, in my sophomore year, I went my own route. I doubled down on my craft and found success in it over time. I cared less about my grades and did the bare minimum to maintain a GPA over 3.7. I purposely took easier classes to free up my time and participated more in outside extracurricular activities than in-school clubs. I was happy with what I was learning and accomplishing, but I couldn’t help but sweat a little bit every time the idea of college came up.
In the summer before my senior year, everything changed. I sold my company and I got an actual job with an actual salary. I met amazing people and opportunities opened left and right. Through meeting so many people, I also got to interact with so many university students, many of them virtually and professionally. I also made friends with a handful of students at UC Berkeley and had some of the most fun times of my life hanging out with them. I slowly realized that college could be a great option for me, purely for the experience. Student life and networking became my motivations for applying to college, and not necessarily for the education or the degree. I continually became more interested in becoming a college student as I experienced the fun life of a college student.
By then, my senior year was starting, so I decided to put effort into my college applications and open up options for possible acceptances. I scrambled around, asking friends about how the college application system worked. I joined a college consulting program and dished out many dollars to be guided through this process. I put together a huge list of schools and started working on each one. I re-ignited my desire to go to Stanford, and unintentionally manifested it in many different ways. I told everyone who asked that I wanted to go to Stanford. I wrote it down in my journal day after day. I even announced it on multiple podcasts and in press interviews.
It wasn’t an easy process by any means. Like any other high school senior who’s applied to college, I went through much pain and suffering. The constant revisions, harsh feedback, and massive imposter syndrome that can come with applying to college is overwhelming. And with my situation being a special case, many around me questioned and judged my choices for applying to colleges. I have constantly questioned if college was worth my time by peers, friends, and even my college counselors. Though it was never discouraging, it made me doubtful at times.
Through all the hardship, I slowly got through it. After weeks of hard work, I submitted my first application to Stanford, as part of the restricted early action pool. I was so nervous, but then all I could do was wait.
Soon enough, it was December 15 - decision day. I was anticipating the decision release the entire day, so much to the point where I couldn’t focus. When the time came to actually open the decision, I prepared myself. I paced back and forth in my backyard, mentally preparing myself to open my status update. I locked myself in my room and started recording my reaction on my phone. I had all the pieces in place to open my decision, but it still took me 15 minutes to actually do so.
“Dear Calix, I am very sorry to let you know we are unable to offer you admission to Stanford.”
Rejected. Not even deferred. Stanford didn’t want to consider me further in comparison to a new pool of applications. They knew they didn’t want me, and they knew I wasn’t good enough.
I was heartbroken. I know many are advised to keep expectations low in preparation for failure, but I couldn’t help but have some hope that I could’ve been accepted and imagine what life would’ve been like at my dream school. But no. Despite all my aspirations, the only thing that displayed before me was a rejection of my childhood dream.
I laid on my bed and cried. I read my rejection letter over and over, hoping the words would change. I even went for a walk in the rain, just to get away from this disappointment for a little bit. In complete agony, I had to respond to everyone asking me how my decision went, and hear their long rants about how I should’ve gotten in. What was worse was seeing those around me receive their admission into their dream schools broke my heart even more. Though I was happy for them, it pained me at the same time.
I was sad, but I couldn’t stay sad for long. By that time, it was winter break, and many college deadlines in early January 2022 were approaching. This was the only opportunity I’ll have to apply to these colleges for a long time, and I was in the perfect position to do so. If I couldn’t have my dream school, then I was determined to do my best to create other options.
Over the course of 3 weeks, I worked day and night to submit college applications to over 14 colleges, many of which I didn’t even plan to apply to. I reviewed my Stanford application and took away lessons to improve my new applications. I solidified my narrative and theme and made sure to be clear with my intentions of why I was applying to these schools.
I don’t have a happy ending to this chapter of my life. I got rejected by Stanford, and have yet to hear back from any other college as of this moment. I still ache inside when I see others’ college acceptances, being reminded of what I could not have. I’ve accepted my failure for what it is and moved on.
But through this, it reinforced a crucial lesson in my life. No matter how much sadness, anger, or overall emotion you have, life has to go on. If you stay in your place of grief for too long, life will leave you in the dust. It’s okay to break down and cry when you fail, just as long as you don’t stay like that.
With all my college applications submitted, I’m happy to be back in a state of focusing on myself and my own personal and professional goals. And when decision season rolls around, who knows what will happen. I can’t say for sure what the results will be, and or where I will end up.
All I know is that things will turn out exactly the way they should.