To those rejected: A college pep talk for me as much as you

Filed Under: Blog

By James Larson

Most people don’t get into their top schools. Some may attend safety schools, or even be rejected by those.

This is not only perfectly normal, but amazing — and exciting, too.

Last December, I was rejected from my dream school. Despite bracing for impact, it hurt when I read that fateful letter. I felt less sure, less ready for what was ahead of me. So, as I usually do when stressed, I picked up an entertaining book, put on some music, and searched for answers both on the page and in my brain. What I found was almost more surprising than my application results.

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Think about all the people you’ve ever met. Every single one of them. Chances are, the ones you admire most didn’t go to a top school. It’s easy to look at success stories and lust after false correlations, but don’t overlook the millions upon millions who never had a chance and still made a difference. Those who made their own Ivy.

You — the student reading this — are ahead of the pack by trying, by applying in the

 first place. The ability to care, to try, to write, and to commit are some of the hardest and most sought-after talents. Your drive will push you to great things, no matter where you end up.

I know “your specific college doesn’t matter” is a cliche. Most Seniors, and even me in the past, have shoved that advice to the side. Sure, it doesn’t matter for anyone else. But it matters to me. Think of all the good that would happen! Think of how my pain would be worth it!

I’m here to tell you that your pain is already worth it. The mistakes you’ve made, the sorrows you’ve faced, the luck that always seems to go to someone else — these compound into the one thing that college can’t necessarily give you. Humility. And ultimately, that’s the most important of all. Not money, or power, or fame, or passion or even prestige. Humility. Because it makes us more complete, not to mention more compassionate, people.

That’s what I came to after all my research*. I have to say, it helped a ton. Going through these thoughts and reflecting about how far I’ve come has prepared me to end my last year of high school strong. I recommend you all do the same.

Now, go be good people. Best of luck to my fellow Seniors. And yes, I think our title should be capitalized!

When the glory tries to tempt you
It may seem like what you need
But if glory makes you happy
Why are you so broken up?…
Don’t you waste the suffering you’ve faced
It will serve you in due time.

– Porter Robinson

* Tangentially related resources and special thanks:

James is a 2023-24 Ready Washington storyteller and a high school senior in Everett.