I've been helping my daughter with college applications, and the other day, we stumbled upon my own college applications.
I had not seen them since I was 18. For some reason, my father kept copies of them in a file box, which he recently gave me. Also in the box, the rejection letters I received from the colleges with the familiar: "It is with genuine regret that I write to inform you that we are unable to offer you a place in the Class of 1988."
It was humbling, to say the least ...
My daughter immediately looked for my SAT scores. Not surprisingly, they were much lower than hers. I told her the scoring was probably different back then. She then asked Siri what my scores would be equivalent to today. Unfortunately, for me, I only gained a few points from her research.
I was mortified by some of the wording of my college essays. They were rife with cliches and universal truths I had not yet earned as a young person. The title of my main essay was cringe-worthy: "Unconditional Love." As I skimmed them, I realized that my mother did more than just a little bit of editing when she typed them from my handwritten versions. For example, when asked what I would bring to a desert island, I described genres of music, including jazz and classical, something my 18-year-old self would never have said.
But somehow, it all worked out. I was admitted to several excellent schools, including Duke University (which my daughter considers "miraculous"). I attended Duke and was a successful student. I went on to study journalism in graduate school at Northwestern University. There, I excelled and discovered my passion for writing.
I still remember being very stressed out about the college application process and having little patience as I waited for answers from the different universities. I felt like my entire future hinged on this one choice. Now, what I would tell my 18-year-old self is that this choice does not determine your future. It is merely one factor, among many, that will help shape your journey in life.
So, I say to my daughter and other college applicants, getting rejected from a college is not a reflection of your self-worth, any more than getting accepted is.
What matters is what you do with that college education. What matters is using those four years to figure out what your passion is and how you intend to pursue it. There is not one place to do this, but many. It's a matter of finding the right fit.
I'm living proof that it is all going to work out, and I have a stack of rejection letters to show for it.
Amanda is the mom of two, a reporter for WRAL-TV and the author of several books including some on motherhood. Find her here on Mondays.