Now to explain how I have narrowed down my options I have to explain all of my options.
I was accepted to three schools: all Catholic, four-year institutions. Two of them are in-state and one is two states away. Even though only these schools accepted me, I was wait listed at two other schools, one of which is another out-of-state Catholic school and the other is an in-state public school.
I also have the option to stay home and attend the community college for a year and try for the very prestigious schools that rejected me this year, once again.
I feel conflicted. Of the schools that accepted me, the school I had been the most interested in attending, is out of the question. I had visited the school my sophomore year of high school and loved it. I cried a few times because the problem wasn’t that I hadn’t been accepted, the problem is, and seemingly always will be, money. I simply can’t pretend that I can attend a school where I am expected to contribute more than half of my parent’s combined annual income, per year. Speaking with the financial aid office didn’t help. I was told that the school is unable to meet 100% demonstrated need and I had known that. It was a hard reality to accept and in some sort of way I was hoping for a miracle that never came.
The next school falls right around the middle in terms of the financial aid award. This school my mom absolutely approves of, mostly because it isn’t even two hours away from home. Still, there’s absolutely no way I will be attending in the fall, again because of money. In March I attended an overnight program at the school to visit and get a feel for the campus. In my mind I could not distract myself from the numbers. I sat in the classes and talked to freshman students. Still, I knew the numbers weren’t in my favor. Looking back now, I know I tried not to like the school for the sake of my feelings. And honestly, it upset me to realize that could be the reason I didn’t see very many people that looked like me there. It broke my heart more because this school’s holy order began with the purpose to educate poor students who would not otherwise obtain an education. I understand education comes at a high cost but it still disappoints me that my decision to say no has nothing to do with the potential I could prove on campus. For this school too, it is coming down to mere numbers.
The final school that accepted me is two states away. It would be a two-hour flight from home. It would also be a pretty drastic climate change. I’m looking at the smallest financial aid gap with this school. I was awarded multiple merit scholarships and because of this going out of state is more financially realistic than my above options. Still, this school is a risk for me. I’ve never visited the campus, much less visited Washington. I don’t have any family or friends out there. I have a medical condition called primary Raynaud’s, which causes my hands and feet to go into vasospasms under cold and stressful conditions. Given the fact that by committing to this school, 100% of my demonstrated need would not be met by merit scholarships, I would have to work my freshman year. Even though this school was the most generous, it is not enough to make my attendance a reality without great stress involved for me.
As much as it hurts me to think that my dream of attending a four-year university will be different than I dreamed, I cannot and will not put myself in a financially stressful situation. I cannot fall back on my parents if it comes to my graduation and I can’t find a job quickly. I simply can’t take on the amount of loans these schools are offering. I’ve considered it and if I were to take on these loans, I’m not sure I would allow myself to enjoy my college years. It would make it difficult for me to enjoy and participate in college as it should be for every student. Therefore as much as I would love to attend, I cannot commit to any one of these schools.
I am saying no because as much as it hurts me now, in the long run I want to be okay financially. And while years from now I might understand why God put me in this situation, today I don’t.
In eighth grade my history teacher asked us to write letters to ourselves as seniors in high school. I’ve gone back to read this letter I scrawled as an eighth grader once every year of high school. Looking back, I feel like I disappointed the eighth grader who anxiously awaited high school with a two thousand dollar scholarship for college in hand. She dreamed of attending a prestigious university. She wanted to become a lawyer. But I let her down. She’s not going off to college after high school graduation. She hasn’t made her parents proud.
I wanted so much to make this girl’s dreams a reality. I wanted to believe that I could because my heart had been set on making it happen.
Did I dream too big? Was I in over my head? Did QuestBridge really mean to select me as a finalist? Would money really stop me? Was I kidding myself thinking I could be like my classmates coming from upper class families and pristine academic careers? If I hadn’t applied, could I have spared myself from failure? Did I know all this and merely choose to ignore it?
I don’t know the answer and I’d rather not think about things unworthy of my time. My admissions decisions cannot be changed. It already happened. I threw away the college brochures I had kept. I tossed my rejection letters in the recycling bin. I cried and used ice cream with a side of Netflix to console me.
One of the schools I was wait listed at happens to be the UC my older sister is currently attending as a sophomore. If I get pulled off the wait list there, I will take their offer.
If not I will take ace my classes at the community college this year, take on an internship with an attorney, work part-time, and reapply for admission at some of the many schools that rejected me.
I have decided that whichever one of these two routes I take, my accomplishments will make me believe in myself again and more than before. I am not stopping here. Some of my classmates are going to UCLA and Berkeley. While I won’t be joining my classmates, it doesn’t mean I didn’t work as hard as I could. I am still graduating from high school in a few months. I still made it through parochial school when there were times I didn’t think I ever would. I still found my passion for writing in high school. I still have memories left to make in my final days of high school. I won’t be going to my dream school quite yet but nothing can stop me from believing that I can make the eighth grade Adriana and her supporters proud.
And in the words of Stephen Chbosky, “Even if we don’t have the power to choose where we come from, we can still choose where we go from there. We can still do things. And we can try to feel okay about them.”
The reality is my low-income background cannot stop me unless I believe that to be so. The moment I believe something or someone can stop me, is the moment I give that something or someone the power to do exactly that. Had I given up because of my family’s financial circumstances before, I would not be graduating with high honors from high school this June. This is only the beginning of bigger dreams I will make a reality.
By Driving Into the Future