As the oldest child in my family, I was also the first to embark on the college search process. My parents and I had no idea what to expect. It'd been years since they toured and applied to colleges, and it was safe to say that things had drastically changed.
The college application industry is now way more competitive, given a larger field and inflation of students' resumes. As an Honors/AP student with a low income, I believed my best fit would be a high-power private school. Most of those schools would pay your way if you were accepted and from a certain income bracket, and my family was in that income bracket. Now I just needed to get in.
I agonized over my application essays and lost sleep over the SAT. I worried that my grades wouldn't be good enough, but hoped my unique experiences, involvement, and qualities other than my grades would be enough.
I was convinced that I wouldn't be okay if I wasn't at one of these selective, private colleges. I was afraid I wouldn't fit in or make friends anywhere else, especially because I knew I wouldn't be involved in the party scene (I was way too anxious for that!). Any school that might have been a "party school" scared me. I thought there was no way I would feel comfortable at a school like that, especially with how afraid I was of trying alcohol.
But even without that concern, I wasn't convinced I'd be able to make friends. It'd taken me a while to feel fully comfortable in my high school. I couldn't imagine that there was possibly more than one place where I'd fit in.
After months of stress, the results were in.... and they sucked.
I was rejected from my early decision I and early decision II schools, and several more rejections followed those. At the end of everything, I had a pile of rejections, waitlist status at Carnegie Mellon and Bryn Mawr, and one acceptance -- to Towson's Honors College.
It was scary. Having spent most of my college search process envisioning myself at one of the small, high-achieving private schools, I didn't know what life would look like at a large, out-of-state public school. But despite my fears, that's where I went.
And I am so, so, glad I did.
When people ask me why I came to Towson, it's hard to answer that question. It brings up a lot of feelings, with painful memories of rejection and fear. So instead, I choose to tell people why I'm grateful I ended up here. While I'm not a big believer in fate, I am convinced that something out there was looking out for me and made sure I would go to the school I thought wasn't for me.
Almost immediately after moving to campus, my remaining fears evaporated.
I quickly made friends and got along with my surrounding community. Within my first week on campus, I had a job I loved. My proximity to my hometown allowed me to see my family and cats often, and even go on trips with the Speech and Debate team I wanted to stay involved in. I could easily see my boyfriend graduate from boot camp, and he could easily come to visit me for a night or a weekend once he'd returned to town. And, miraculously, I ended up less than a mile away from one of the few treatment centers in the country that recognized my eating disorder diagnosis.
I was so lucky. And I still am.
I got my dream job as a sophomore in college, then got ANOTHER dream job during my junior year. I was able to pursue a casual interest that I never imagined I'd get the chance to learn about. And I could even join the orchestra as a non-major! Literally everything about my college experience far exceeded my expectations.
Sure, I could do without the construction traffic. But otherwise, Towson has quickly become the second home that I never anticipated would feel so right. I can't imagine my life without the people and jobs I've become attached to, and I feel so extremely lucky to have ended up here.
Years later, it's weird to reflect back on the college search process that put me through so much. All I can say now is that everything really was okay -- more than okay, even, since I'm absolutely thriving at my school!
Looking back, I don't think I would have been happy at the choices I thought were my "dream schools." Who knows if this exact combination of luck would have happened to me at any other school or in any other place?
What matters is that I ended up in the right place. I'm at peace. And if this could turn out well for me, the most anxious person in the world... for all you know, it could happen for you, too.
Stay strong, students. You're going to be okay.