Rejection doesn’t dictate your future

Emma Schirmer, Contributing Writer

On May 1, National College Decision Day, millions of kids around the country will accept their colleges of choice. Whether it be an Ivy League, a small liberal arts college in rural Massachusetts, a gargantuan public university or a quaint private college in the city — students are planning out the next journeys in their lives based on a piece of paper.

While I no longer have to worry about what college I’m going to, I think about it often because my younger brother and friends still in high school are. They’re posting on social media about the daunting idea of choosing the school that “fits” them, uploading exuberant photos with their schools of choice’s names proudly displayed. I know the pressure placed on them, and I know the path they are about to walk down all too well.

To say my first semester at VCU was turbulent would be a massive understatement. I spent every day thinking I made the most rash, ill-advised decision of my life.

I came to VCU because the financial aid package I received was too good to turn down, and because my friends said they thought I would fit in well here. I also got rejected from most of my top choices in one of the most brutal college decision years my high school had seen. I didn’t tour the other schools I had been accepted into; I chose VCU because I figured it was as good as I was going to get.

So, I packed my life up and came to VCU last fall.

In just two semesters I met some of my closest friends, changed my major, came out as bisexual, discovered heartbreak and felt failure. I worked on research that excited me about the world. I learned my way around campus like the back of my hand while exploring Richmond.

I fell in love. I fell in love with VCU.

I realized even though VCU was not my first choice — I had a list of 17 possible transfer colleges and an escape plan  — this was my home.

My friends were here, my people were here, the community I wanted, and more importantly needed, was here.

I don’t believe in fate. I think life happens and we deal with it. But what I do believe in is myself. I have never believed in myself more than I do here. I can accomplish anything put in front of me, solve problems and create solutions, and build long lasting relationships professionally, romantically, socially and within myself.

College is much more than a purely academic education.

So here is what I have to say to the incoming class of 2023: Trust yourselves. Be confident and unapologetic. Explore the world around you, and don’t let anyone tell you what to do.

And finally, and most importantly, welcome home.

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