Many students are celebrating their early application acceptances or are deeply saddened by their first rejection. Some even are in limbo: the dreaded deferral. It's like purgatory for college admissions.
I'd like to share a story of one of my most treasured students who never gave up.
Let's just call him Hank.
Hank is a first-generation student who didn't have two pennies to rub together. He and his family endured hardship unfathomable to most of us; even today when I reflect on some of the situations they were placed under, I find it hard to imagine how they survived, let alone managed to thrive. I met Hank the summer before his senior year of high school when I was working at an after-school program for under-represented youths. He was this skinny, quiet kid who approached me with a million questions about college. I remember thinking, "Oh my, I've got my work cut out for me!"
Hank was at the program every day until closing time working with academic tutors, researching colleges, applying for scholarships, and, yes, asking tons of questions. He attended every information session from college representatives, every college tour, and every college prep workshop. Hank was indeed a go-getter. His grades were solid 3.4 GPA, and his test scores were above national average, which is quite impressive for a student who learned English just a few years earlier. Hank had a few AP courses on his transcript, including AP Physics. Although he didn't need AP Physics to graduate, he chose to take the course because he wanted to challenge himself.
During this same semester, in between working tirelessly on his college applications, Hank was also working a graveyard shift as a janitor, all while being homeless. He couch surfed, along with his younger brother, from relative to relative. One night as I left work, I noticed Hank starting to walk home. It was cold and rainy. I offered to drive Hank to his relative's house. I had a leftover banana from my lunch and offered it to him. He ate half and saved the other half for his brother. More than likely that was their dinner that night.
Hank was admitted to a handful of colleges. His top choice was Santa Clara University and, happily, they accepted him. In addition, he was accepted at UC Santa Cruz, plus a few CSU and private campuses. Remarkably, he had earned enough scholarship money to pay for four years of tuition, including room and board. So, on May 1st, he officially accepted Santa Clara University's admission offer and declined the others.
But as I previously mentioned, Hank was homeless and working a graveyard shift to support himself and his brother. Outside of simply surviving, school and college applications were his priority. But life was a constant struggle, and it took its toll on his studies. School was not easy for Hank. He utilized free tutoring through the after-school program and never gave up trying his best, but it wasn't enough. At the year-end, he received a D+ in AP Physics.
His college admissions was rescinded.
Was Hank upset? You bet. I was too! But that didn't stop him. He contacted all of his colleges and appealed, asking for re-consideration. Many people--I, his school principal, and his teachers--wrote letters on his behalf. Even so, every one of the colleges rejected his appeal. Instead of giving up, however, he persevered. He attended community college for two years and then transferred to University of San Diego, a campus he previously had never considered. While at USD, Hank was able to study abroad in Madrid, Spain, something he really wanted to do and could afford, thanks to his scholarship money. Hank graduated last week from the University of San Diego.
Hank never gave up. After his admissions was rescinded, he had limited options. But instead of giving up, crumbling in the face of his bad fortune, he found an alternate route, one which put him on a path that turned out to be better and brighter than his original plan.
Sometimes life doesn't work out the way we intend it to. But if we believe in ourselves and never give up, we can sometimes make a golden opportunity present itself. If it can happen to Hank, it can happen to you.
If you are wondering what happened to Hank's brother, he is following in his footsteps, attending a CSU majoring in International Business. He is very active on campus with clubs and organizations and continues to break barriers.