Little Fish, Big Pond: The reality check from High School to College

Reality check
by Lorraine Petrie

If you think your application stands out, I’m sorry to break it to you but…it probably doesn’t.

You’re familiar with the checklist:

  • Good GPA
  • AP Classes
  • Sports
  • Leadership
  • Community Service
  • Job

Here was mine:

  • Unweighted GPA just shy of a 4.0
  • A few APs
  • Volleyball for 4 years, softball for 2 years and club sports year round
  • Captain of the JV and Varsity volleyball teams (during my sophomore and senior years)
  • Student government for 4 years — including Senior class president
  • Homecoming Queen
  • Choir, Kairos Retreat Leader, church lector
  • Worked at a law office for 1 summer, and the neighborhood bagel shop for 2 years

I thought I was a shoe-in at the schools to which I’d be applying. Plus, being able to check the “mixed race” box, I figured I could even add to the school’s diversity (hello bonus points, right?). What I didn’t consider (or realize at the time) was that there are even higher overachieving students out there who could blow my credentials out of the water. I’m sure my know-it-all teenage self would have said, “How was that even possible?”

But it was…and without competitive test scores along with a flawless GPA AND an impressive high school resume, the most sought-after universities were unfortunately not within reach. I applied to only three schools (at that time, it wasn’t a crazy notion). I was rejected from my reach school and completely surprised. How was I not accepted?? Reality check received — there are just as many (and MORE) amazing students out there. Talk about a humbling experience. Thankfully, I was accepted into my other two choices, and it all worked out. They say you will end up at the school that’s right for you, which is usually true, but why not have as many options as possible to choose from?

My first year was another reality check. I was no longer the standout in my classes or on campus. There were students from every state. From other countries. Kids who started their own businesses. Student athletes who had qualified for the Olympics. The list goes on. Since everyone there was a star at their own schools, now, I just blended in. In fact, I wasn’t really that special. Being a standout was suddenly “normal.” But it was a valuable lesson in humility and quite an experience being surrounded by so many inspiring peers with some pretty amazing backgrounds, stories and upbringings. I learned to be proud of who I am and grateful for the opportunities I had, but most importantly, being humble and getting a taste of the real world. I quickly realized that this would be just the beginning…

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