“Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck.”
Have you ever watched the auditions for American Idol? I am sure you have. Most people are drawn to watching people make a fool of themselves. It always struck me how many of them truly believed their whole lives that they were fantastic singers. Many had people reaffirm their talent. I often felt empathetic when the judges would tell them the harsh truth–that they were horrible singers and they should stick to their day jobs. That’s kind of the feeling I got after not making into my top graduate programs in higher education. I began feeling like maybe I wasn’t good enough, even though I had many accomplishments in the field and tons of supporters who would always tell me how great I was. I started to feel unworthy and not good enough.
It all started in the Fall of 2011. It was my senior year and while I had a general sense of what areas I was interested in pursuing after graduation, I hadn’t realized graduate programs for higher education existed until November. For those of you who have applied to graduate programs or are in the process, you know how late that is! Most of the programs I was interested in had deadlines in December or January 1st. One program in particular caught my eye. I remember being so drawn to their emphasis on social justice because that I considered myself a do-gooder if you will; I did AmeriCorps, volunteered tons in college and cared about many social issues. I scrambled to take the GREs and I devoted hours each night to study for them and bought every prep book and flash cards I could. I meticulously drafted personal statement after personal statement. I shared them with many people for feedback and mock interviewed over and over. Because I was in such a time crunch, it was the only place I applied. Decreasing my “chances” in my eyes was that it was an extremely competitive program. Thankfully, I was offered an interview. I was so excited to see the town it was located in and instantly fell in love with it’s charm. All my interviews went fantastically and I really clicked with all the candidates. I left wanting at attend even more and anxiously awaited news about admission I can remember receiving an e-mail from them one night while I was at the casino, celebrating my friends birthday. It was an acceptance letter. I was so ecstatic that I began tearing up. I could not believe such an amazing program really was offering me a spot. The only problem? I was not offered an assistantship. I remember being so shocked because my interviews went so well and I could not figure out what I did wrong. Needless to say, I could not afford the program without an assistantship because I had so much debt from undergrad. I decided to defer my admission and I was determined to make it their regardless. I was not going to let it stop me from achieving my dreams. I ended up finding two part-time positions at the campus as a House Director and a Program Assistant in their service-learning office. I was so excited to head to there–it seemed like the perfect place for me. That is, until I lived there.
Without going into all the reasons why it was not the right fit for me, I learned an important lesson. Even though I have decided to return to my home state and even though I had one of the toughest years of my life, I am glad everything happened as it did. It taught me what was really important to me and showed me where I want to go in life.
So that brings me to this year. I applied to more higher education programs in my state as well as neighboring ones with this new found knowledge of where I needed to be geographically and was looking forward to the process again with new found positivity. I was confident and equipped with even more experience and my new found social justice knowledge and identity development. While I chose to apply to multiple schools (as it was one thing I regretted last year), I again had that overwhelming excitement for one particular program. Yet again, I was ecstatic to be invited to interview (there’s was even more competitive with at 3% acceptance rate) and I really liked their program for many reasons. From the time I found out to the day I interviewed I woke up early each day to mock interview myself (I used my mac to record myself and play it back), have others mock interview me over Skype reviewed the current news and popular literature in the field and reflected on what I could offer and where I stood on certain issues. I went to the interviews feeling confident and excited. I left feeling the same. Can you guess what happened? I didn’t get in. I was told I did wonderfully on my interviews and that I was a “top candidate” and, in fact, an alternate on many of the assistantships I applied to. So here I was, feeling like THAT person on American Idol.
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