I held this story in for so long. But I decided to let it all out. So here it goes. I remembered when I was a senior in high school...and wasn’t able to get in college.
I was always petrified at the thought of “going off to college.” First of all, what does that even mean? It sounded like I was going to be shipped off to some weird, obscure, foreign wasteland where I would have to survive all on my own. Well…I guess I wasn’t exactly too far off.
In high school I always hated talking about college. When someone asked me where I wanted to go to school, I freaked out. What was I going to say? Then once I said some random school that I pulled from (you know where) then they would follow up by asking, “So what are you going to major in? What do you want to do?” What?? Me lying to you on where I wanted to go to school wasn’t enough for you? This is too much pressure. I can’t even decide what I want to eat for lunch...how am I supposed to tell you what I want to do for the rest of my life? So I always made something up in order to sound like I had my life (somewhat) together. Fake it, til you make it.
But why did I fear college so much? It took me a while to finally admit this to myself...I never thought I was good enough. Or smart enough. I didn’t think college was somewhere I could thrive. And because there is a strong emphasis in society on getting a college degree, it only intensified my fears.
Because of my fear of college and not being “good enough”, I avoided it all together (as long as I could at least). I didn’t really start applying until second semester of my senior year...around February or March (late, yes I know).
I remembered looking at my phone at a track meet. I checked my email and there it was! An acceptance email from Georgia College! I was so excited! I jumped up and screamed. I remembered telling my dad, my mom, and my siblings. I told my cousins, friends, teachers, coaches, Mrs. Willcox (my college counselor), and my most importantly, my dog. The whole world knew that Trey Christopher Young was going to be a college man! Everyone was so proud of me. But for once, I was proud of myself. It gave me validation.
About a week or so later I was still in wonderland. The excitement was still fresh. I started trying to figure out where on campus I was going to live, roommates, summer classes, etc. I checked my email. I saw I had another email form Georgia College. Man I could definitely get used to this! I opened it up and it was from an administrator. She told me that my acceptance email I received was a mistake and that I was really not accepted into Georgia College. She told me that “I did not meet their standards.”
My world came crashing down. I read it about twenty times...hoping my eyes were just lying to me. Each time my vision became more and more blurry as tears overwhelmed my eyes. I didn’t want to believe what I was reading. This can’t be happening. My fear of not being good enough--was becoming all too real.
The hardest part about about it wasn’t necessarily that I got reject. Yes, that was extremely painful, but it wasn’t the hardest part to deal with. The hardest part was going home that day...I had to face my parents and tell them that I really wasn’t accepted into college.
The shame...the embarrassment…and the complete and utter humiliation—is something I struggle putting into words. I felt like I disappointed my parents. All I ever wanted was them to be proud of me...and yet again, I let them down.
Telling my parents, friends, coaches, and teachers that I really got rejected made me want to go in hiding forever. How can I even show my face at school anymore? At Deerfield we have a hallway by the senior lockers and above is a small flag of colleges around the country. Our names were placed next to the college that we were accepted to. My name still excluded. It never made it on the wall.
My pride and any strand of confidence that I had was ripped from me. This experience put me in pretty deep depression and caused a lot of anxiety that I somehow managed hide from the outside world. I had to act as if everything was okay...that nothing phased me. Letting people see me visibly vulnerable was not an option. Remember, “Fake it, till you make it Trey.”
What made things worse was that when I found out that wasn’t accepted, it was mid to late April. Not much time to form a backup plan. As I was walking to receive my diploma at graduation, I still was completely lost. All of my (amazing and incredibly smart) peers were ready to start a new chapter in their lives. But me—I still wasn’t accepted in a college. I didn’t know where I was going. I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I was just an overall train wreck.
Luckily, North Georgia decided to accept me at the 11th hour—in mid June. After they accepted me, I decided to keep the email that I got from Georgia College. I looked at it almost daily. I used it as motivation to thrive. I wanted to prove to them (and myself) that I am worthy.
In a weird, and almost inexplicable way, looking at that rejection email became therapeutic. Yes—I know—weird. But it made me want to prove myself so much that it pushed me everyday from that point on. It became more beneficial than anything.
So much so that it made me crazy enough to think I could get an internship position on Capitol Hill. Although, I did fear of getting rejected from that too, I tried to think more about “Forget about them saying no...what if they say yes.” And sure enough, they said yes.
And currently I am fortunate enough to be a summer intern for President Obama’s former speechwriter and New York Times best selling author, David Litt (Don’t worry, I’m heading back to school in August).
At the time, I thought my world was over when I got accepted then rejected from Georgia College—particularly a college that I was more than interested in attending. I vividly remember the pain, sadness, and the humiliation that came with it. But in retrospect, it actually helped me in many ways. It taught me how to overcome adversity. It helped me grow. I started reading more. It made me try harder. To do better. To be better.
Les Brown once said, “Someone’s opinion of you does not have to become your reality.” I believe that now. So what if a school or someone doesn't think I meet "their standards." Fine, I can be great somewhere else. The only thing that matters is how you see yourself.
P.S. I did not write this to smear or defame Georgia College and State University. I’m sure that Georgia College is a great school to attend that offer great opportunities and a quality learning environment. I wrote this piece to simply to reflect on how I overcame rejection and failure.