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Colleges don’t just accept or reject people nowadays; they “waitlist” people as well. Depending on the college, some of the lists can be massive and being accepted off of the waitlist can be pretty unlikely (to read more on this topic, check out this article). Thus, when I was waitlisted at several schools, I took them as rejections. I knew that there were plenty of qualified students who were waitlisted as well, so I thought my chances were pretty slim. I decided to stay on the waitlists just in case though, so I sent in my letters of continued interest.

After much deliberation, I decided to put in my deposit at Wellesley College, a school that I absolutely adored (and still do), but it was unfortunately a financial burden for my family. However, my parents wanted me to be happy and agreed to help me with some of the debt. I finally felt ready to finish off my high school career and head off to Wellesley–finally free of the horrors of college admissions. Yet, on May 13th, college admissions threw me a curve ball: one of the schools that had waitlisted me, the University of Pennsylvania, had accepted me from the waitlist.

When I saw the email, I was absolutely flabbergasted. All I did was scream in shock. How? The waitlist was so long. I thought it was a joke, so I refreshed the page and read it about 15 more times. Yep, it said “Congratulations!” in the email. I just could not wrap my mind around it. Why would this amazing school even accept me when there were so many eager students who were probably much more qualified? I just could not understand. The feelings I had were extremely strange; I was excited, yet indifferent, but also quite confused. I thought I was finally free from having to make life-changing decisions–just kidding, I had to decide again.

For me, my first priority was affordability. When I received my financial aid package after my acceptance, there was just no way I could say no. I received significantly more aid from UPenn than I had from Wellesley. I knew that if I chose to attend Wellesley, my parents would have a lot of trouble paying for the tuition. However, as a smaller liberal arts women’s college with an unparalleled environment, I knew that I would feel very secure and at home there. Thus I had to re-start my insane stalking of UPenn through browsing its website and College Confidential (not highly recommended; it was mainly used for comparisons of the two schools), asking friends about the schools, and exploring the accepted students Facebook page. In the end, the finances and proximity of UPenn to my home won out and I decided to enroll there, letting go of the school that I had set my heart upon.

Obviously, it is not as if I am “settling” for a not-as-fantastic school. However, Wellesley will always be in my heart. Upon committing UPenn, I felt an overwhelming sense of inferiority. I felt that I was not as intelligent as the other students in the class since I was not accepted regular decision; I felt as though I was not good enough. These were the kids admissions thought were better than me and they were the reason I was waitlisted. Just thinking about it made me feel uncomfortable and inferior. I just kept thinking that the other students were better than me and that I was the bottom of the barrel, as if I was just there to fill out the class. At times I felt so inferior that I would check my account several times a day to ensure that my acceptance was real–what if they were just playing a cruel joke on me (hey, college admissions people can be pretty scary)?

It’s been a rough ride, but I eventually came to the conclusion that there will always be people better and there will always be people worse. College is filled with an extremely diverse group of people who are awesome at different things. Besides, I was one of the few who were accepted off of the waitlist, and that makes me worth something. UPenn liked me for some reason, and I should just accept it. Moping about inferiority is not worth my time. I should just try to prove that idea wrong in college and make UPenn think that my acceptance was worth it.

The college admissions journey has not been kind, especially with all of this waitlist business. At this point, college admissions is very much a game of luck, particularly because there are just so many qualified students vying for such a small number of spots. All I can really say is, if you are waitlisted and really like the school, stick with it. Send in your letter of continued interest because you really never know what will happen. If you are accepted, don’t ever think that you are worse than the other students–you are just as qualified, which is exactly why you were accepted.

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the author

Jenny Zhang is a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania, who is thinking about majoring in economics (but that is definitely not set in stone). She has many talents such as falling asleep anywhere at any time (this can be verified by her roommate) and procrastinating. Jenny likes to spend a lot of her time on YouTube watching baby videos and obsessing over anything Jeremy Lin-related while eating various forms of food that are high in sugar and/or fat. She is currently trying to learn how to play Ultimate Frisbee to avoid the Freshman 15 and attempting to perfect her street-crossing techniques. Her spirit animal is a panda. You can follow her on Twitter @JenKnee_Z

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  1. Gaby on April 9, 2015

    Thanks so much! Your post really helped me calm my nervous. I have hope for my first choice and your situation is the exact same one I am in right now. I am praying that the end will be the same as well!

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