How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Accept the Application Process

Andria Chen/Staff Illustrator

Lila Li

As an international student, going to college in an new country is never easy. I studied in an international division of a high school in Beijing, China. In those three years of high school, all I could think about was how to get into an amazing university in the U.S., and almost everything I did was to realize this dream.

Back in high school, the hardest thing for me was planning my time. I needed to study for the Test of English as a Foreign Language, the ACT and AP courses, all while making time for my extracurricular activities. I took every step carefully and put all my effort in it.

In my senior year I worked very hard on my essays and personal statements in order to stand out among so many great applications. Every time I stressed out as the application deadlines came I would remind myself of my goal. I felt the weight of expectations from my parents, teachers and friends, who I could not disappoint. The most important thing was that I could not let myself down.

At the time, New York University was my dream school. I was fourteen years old when I first heard the name ‘NYU’. I researched it on the Internet over and over again. The more research I did, the stronger my feelings got that I fit in at that school. I never even thought of going to any college besides NYU.

Early in the process, my advisor asked me if I would like to do an early decision application to NYU. I will always remember how my voice sounded when I said yes, without a hint of doubt. I felt like it was my fate to get into NYU. 

After submitting the application, all I could do was wait. I lost sleep almost every night, thinking about NYU all the time. I dreamed about every single corner of the city: standing on the Washington Square and listening to a talented guy playing violin there or looking quietly at the Statue of Liberty, just like Rose in Titanic.

Feb. 15, the day all of the decisions were released, came soon. The night before, I was so freaked out that I cried at the dinner table. My parents were by my side, supporting and encouraging me. Late that night, when I was in bed, I thought about every single possibility, and then found it’s actually not too hard to fall asleep.

When I woke up the next morning, the first thing that popped into my mind was NYU. It was the decision day. I turned on the computer, and got on to the website.

“Thank you for your interest in NYU. However, we are not able to offer you admission…” I couldn’t even finish it.

I thought I would cry, but I didn’t. All I could feel at that time was disappointment.

Maybe time can heal anything. Maybe it’s because my family and my friends were there for me, but at the end of the day I just learned to let things go. I talked to my advisor and she told me it was a competitive year, which made me feel much better. I told myself again and again that there were so many other great choices waiting for me.

I got rejected from some other schools as well. All I could do was accept those failures and expect something good to happen in the near future. I moved past my setbacks and went on with my life.

During that time I was also accepted by many universities. They gave me the hope, courage and confidence to conquer the next obstacle life gave me. I sincerely appreciate all of the admission officers of those schools, since they tried to know more about me and recognized my worth.

In the end, I decided to go to the University of California, Santa Barbara. Here I am, enjoying the beautiful sea view, having fun at all kinds of parties, studying late in the library and working out with my friends at Recreation Center. I find myself busy but happy everyday with so many amazing things going on in my life. I have a positive attitude every single day. I love being here and I love UCSB. I am so lucky that I chose it.

Going back to what I’ve experienced in the whole application process only makes me grateful for what I have right now. I suddenly recall the night when I couldn’t fall asleep and wrote a long love letter to the admissions office of NYU, showing my huge passion for the school. It’s not that I never tried. It’s just that it was not the right school for me. The most important thing is I did my best to do something. I wasn’t defeated by the failures in my life. Maybe I shouldn’t call them failures – what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, a valuable lesson that all of us should learn.