Hello freshman! You thought this day would never come, didn’t you? Well, it is here! You are finally in college, a place where all your academic dreams will come true (with a whole lot of hard work of course).
Looking back at high school, many of you might have envisioned yourselves at Stony Brook since the ninth grade, or if you are anything like me and a good portion of this university, Stony Brook was the last place you expected to end up. You probably applied to Columbia, Harvard, Yale, Cornell, Stanford, MIT and other extremely selective universities with top of the class marks and high hopes only to get countless letters of rejection.
I am sure you can still feel the pounding of your heart and dropping of your stomach upon reading the sad documents that tell you that you are not good enough.
Some of you might have received admission to these highly coveted institutions only to realize that actually attending was only a pipedream; you could never afford it. You thought life was over the moment you realized the Ivy League was not calling your name. You will never be able to tell your friends and family you went to one of the most prestigious schools in the world.
Having gone through such an emotional roller coaster, I am going to say two things. First, the expectations top flight universities put forth for the students that they admit are a tad ridiculous, so do not dwell on it, and second, the appeal of such universities are only in the name, which you will realize by appreciating the institution you are already attending.
High school seniors, especially during the winter and early spring months, are frantic about colleges. Their lives revolved around getting into their dream schools. They have everything going for them: they are at the top of the class, have incredible SAT scores, have taken 10 AP classes, played three sports and have written stellar essays. Nonetheless they are rejected.
This leaves them wondering, “Why? What did I do wrong?”
I think that the latter question is in fact inherently wrong. They did not do anything wrong. It is the universities that are losing out by rejecting such incredible students and in having such high expectations. Seriously, how much more can you expect a 17 or 18 year old to accomplish? Some of them have not even had their growth spurts!
Not every student can come from a poor, underrepresented minority, have top marks and overcome seemingly insurmountable odds. It just is not possible.
The fact of the matter is that a large portion of college admissions boils down to luck. Sometimes, this luck is out of your control, so quit feeling sorry for yourself and realize you did everything you could.
Many of the colleges that we grow up dreaming about are also not often not all they are cracked up to be. According to a New York Times article by Trip Gabriel, in 2010, three Cornell University students committed suicide in three consecutive months. Suicide had become such a problem at Cornell that the school installed nets at various high points around campus to avoid future incidents.
These were isolated events, but think about it, would you really want to go to a school that aside from its top notch academics is known for being conducive to suicide?
By no means am I attacking Cornell, or any other elite school for that matter. What I am trying to say is that in life we often think that when things do not work out the way we planned, we have failed. And sometimes we think something is going to turn out to be a magnificent success and we are promptly, deeply disappointed. More often than not, however, things end up sorting themselves out. College is no different.
I can say that I am incredibly happy here at Stony Brook. Possibly happier than I would have been at a Columbia or Cornell. Naturally, there are times I get incredibly frustrated with this school (and I am not alone), but in the end it sure did work out. And it will for you. So enjoy your freshman year, because it will fly by!