Tomorrow afternoon, at approximately 3:56 pm, someone in the Dartmouth Admissions Office will press a button*, and acceptance letters will magically appear on the computer screens of students around the world. That button press** is just one simple, relatively insignificant movement of a finger. But for hundreds of early decision applicants, it’s also a story.
On the 10th December 2010, I found out I was accepted to Dartmouth. I remember it was the 10th because it was a Friday and because I spent the week leading up to it freaking out. Perhaps some of you can identify. Being from the east coast, decisions came out at 4 pm, which meant I had to suffer through an entire school day before the admissions gods would hand down my fate. And because everyone secretly reads College Confidential, it felt like the entirety of my school knew that at 4 pm that Friday, I would find out if I’d gotten in. School got out at 2:30, and I had a meeting afterwards that lasted an hour. My friends joked about the impending news, and I laughed, because it was better than shaking or crying or curling up into a ball and those were the other things I felt like doing at the time. 3:30. After the meeting, we walked towards the school parking lot, which was maybe a five-minute walk, tops. We made it last fifteen minutes, and then we loitered. 3:49. My friends had to go home, their parents were waiting for them. I got in my car, didn’t bother turning it on. My iPod Touch was still hooked up to the school WiFi, so I loaded the page where the decisions would be released. Too early. That stupid “Email Address Verification” link stared back at me, happily minding its own business next to “Application Status.” 3:51. Refresh. 3:52. Refresh again. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. I probably could have driven home. I probably should have driven home. Refresh.
At some point during this manic cycle, “Application Status” disappeared. And all I could think was oh my god they’re putting it up right now they’re putting it up now oh no oh gosh oh man why am I doing this to myself uh oh refresh refresh refresh 3:56 refresh oh my god and there it was. New link. “Admissions Decision Letter.” I waited while my heart skipped a couple of beats and then pressed down, wondering why I had even bothered to click the link, convinced that I wasn’t ready to read whatever message it had in store. The school WiFi had never been so fast. I got through “Dear Jamie, Congratulations,” and I immediately thought, okay, that’s a good thing, right? Congratulations is maybe a good sign… there were so many words. Too many words. My eyes fumbled with them until they rested on “acceptance” and things slowed. A few seconds later, my face caught up and I just cried, a lot, and I was thankful that the parking lot was empty because I felt a little weird about bawling my face off in my car. But honestly, none of that mattered, because I got in. I was going to Dartmouth. At the time, I had no idea what that would come to mean, what that would do for my life. I had no idea how emotionally attached I would become to this place, how much it would do for me. Looking back at it now, the reasons I love this place are not necessarily the reasons why I was happy to the point of tears. The people I have come to love, the communities that have brought us together, are nothing like what I pictured first reading that acceptance letter.
And as clichéd as it is, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
After I had processed the fact of my acceptance, I called my grandpa, because he’s the one that chose Dartmouth over Harvard way back in 1940-something. When he finally understood me through my tears, he said, “Oh, Jamie, that’s fantastic! We’ll have to have a bottle of champagne over the holidays! I’m going to open a bottle of champagne right now! That way, when your grandma comes home, she’ll know you got in.” I hung up, drove home, ran into the house crying, which probably terrified my mother until I confused her by throwing my arms around her and explaining that I got in, which made my little brother double over laughing. And soon enough we were all laughing, and I’m pretty sure I was also crying. But it’s okay to have emotions. Getting into college can be an emotional thing.
So, ’18s, when you read your acceptance letters tomorrow, be happy! Smile. Or cry. Or call your grandpa and listen to him talk about champagne. Do whatever it is that your heart feels in that moment, because this is your moment. It’s your story. It’s the first story of the freaking novel that is the next couple years of your life. Maybe you already have an outline for the novel. Maybe you can see the chapter titles all lined up on the first page. Maybe all you have is a blank notebook. Whatever it looks like, it’s a beginning. And it’s beautiful, so beautiful. And I’m so damn excited for you.
*Full disclosure, I have no idea how this actually works.
**Or whatever it actually is that makes acceptance letters appear on your computer screen