July 2 2004

First Person

Confessions of a College Reject

By Eming Piansay
Pacific News Service

My junior year I had my plan set in stone. I was gonna get out of high school, apply to several colleges, go to Northwestern University and major in journalism. Maybe my ego got the better of me, but that’s where I saw myself. I wanted to get out of the city, get out of the state and just go. I just wanted to leave and experience life on my own, get a little taste of independence.

After I applied to seven or so colleges, I waited. My grades weren’t perfect, but I worked hard and did a lot of extracurricular work. I was the editor of my school newspaper; I was on the song girls dance team; I was doing a journalism internship. So I thought my chances were pretty good. How naïve I was.

It wasn’t until I opened rejection letter after rejection letter that my little world was put into perspective.

At first, whenever a small, white, lightweight envelope came in the mail I laughed out loud, knowing full well what that meant: Better luck next time. If the letter was small and light, there was a very big NO inside.

The rejection letter from Northwestern was hard to take. But they have one of the best journalism schools I know, so not getting in wasn’t a huge shock. The shock came when I didn’t get into Emerson College. I knew I had a lot better chance of getting in there than Northwestern, so when that thin envelope came I hit rock bottom.

The waiting process was killing me. People I know would ask, “So, what college are you going to?” and I’d reply, “I dunno, but I know which ones I’m not going to.”

Even after the first few rejections, though, I didn’t completely give up hope. I still hadn’t heard back from the state schools I applied to — my safety schools. But then they rejected me, too. The letters I got from the state schools were pretty straightforward. They listed why I wasn’t getting in and told me to apply again after I had received a certain amount of credits.

After the state schools rejected me, everything I’d done for the past four years felt like a complete waste. All the hard work I did meant nothing. All the extracurricular activities I did, the clubs, teams and grades I tried to keep up so colleges would notice me — what a waste. How depressing is that?

After shedding a few million tears and kicking myself till it hurt, I applied to City College. That was my first acceptance letter and it was one line long.

The good thing about going to City is that, for one, I’ll save money on tuition, and it’s only a 10-minute drive from home. And I’ll still be living with my family so I won’t have to pay rent.

Then I did some research, and it turns out my rejection from the state schools wasn’t all my fault. Applications to California State Universities have increased from 54,118 in 1999 to 64,146 in 2003. That’s nearly a 20 percent increase over the course of four years. Also during this time, the CSUs have accepted 6 percent fewer applicants.

I’m assuming that the sagging job market is putting all these people - the unemployed — back in school, and budget cuts are forcing the CSUs to reject more applicants. Either way, I got screwed.

As of now, I can only hope I do well enough at City to look for other colleges and then start the whole process over again in two years. If this whole rejection game does happen again, though, I plan on permanently tattooing the word REJECT on my forehead.

PNS contributor Eming Piansay, 18, is a staff writer for YO! Youth Outlook magazine.

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