A COOL NOTE ON COLLEGE, FOR THE GRADUATING HIGH SCHOOL SENIORS
I know a lot of people are getting their college acceptance letters right now, and how exciting and nerve-wracking it can be!! But I also know that sometimes you don’t get into your first-choice school, and it can be a really unsettling experience for your life goals and perceptions of yourself, especially if you’re an intense overachiever and life-planner.
So, as a friendly note that you can either take or leave, I’m gonna tell you why the school you get into doesn’t matter. Because I, too, was one of the high-strung, Ivies-or-die, “I don’t care if I hate the school, I’m going there to prove to myself that I am worthy” trash heaps. I’d had my entire life planned out since 7th grade, and the first step in that plan was to go to Princeton, get a Ph.D. in some haughty nuance of American history, and validate everything my obsessive-compulsive self had bled, sweated, and cried for since the day I refused to hand in a kindergarten assignment without white-outing a tiny smudge.
I applied to five schools, almost entirely tiny liberal arts colleges, two of them already written off because their acceptance rate was higher than 30%, and I didn’t get into either of my first choices. And I’m not ashamed to tell you, comrades, that I absolutely //lost it.// I spent months berating myself, questioning my future, running circles in my mind like a RAVING LUNATIC, because I thought I’d ruined everything. I more or less dreaded telling people I was going to Gettysburg, because in my stupid, narrow little mind, Gettysburg was a mark of my failure.
But last August comes around, and September, October, on and on, and I’m living out here in Pennsyltucky, and…I love it? I love this town with my entire heart–I love watching the sunsets on the battlefield; I love singing?? Civil War songs?? With one of my history professors?? when he plays them before class; I love looking at Penn Hall in the evening light; I love that people walk around Servo in forage caps; and I love the history community here, even if it’s so hardcore it does intimidate the hell out of me sometimes.
I might not get the Ivy League bragging rights, but I get to screech over the episode of The Office where DM does GB. I get to eat my Dan Sickles burger at The Blue and Grey, have semi-religious moments of enlightenment at the Peace Light, and reassure myself that whenever something is lurking in the shadows, it’s probably just another statue of Abraham goshdarned Lincoln. I gave up black and orange for blue and orange, but I found a new spirituality, purpose, and sense of place here at Gettysburg.
So maybe you didn’t get into the school you thought you wanted to go to, but maybe you’re gonna go to the school you needed to go to. Maybe you’ll find a new passion or a new meaning in life. Maybe you’ll find people that force you to assert your own belief in yourself, or you’ll be thrown for a loop that’ll make you stronger in the long run. Maybe you’ll end up at your Gettysburg, and you’ll realize that everything is falling into place, even if you didn’t control it. But just…give it a chance.
Buck up and pack your bags, because the world’s happening, you’re getting swept along, and sometimes, it’ll take you to places better than the ones you’d hoped and planned for. Just give it a chance.