So, today was bad. Really bad. Today I got rejected from a grad school that was my top choice, and I got the rejection letter right before going into an interview.
Like, 5 minutes before.
And here I am, standing outside the door, thinking: “I can’t do this. I just want to go under the covers and cry.”
Well, naturally, I went in. I did the interview, even though the whole time, I was in my own head. I felt like I was watching Vera doing an interview while inside, I was thinking about other stuff. Stuff like: “I can’t believe this is happening. I don’t care about anything anymore.”
I finished the interview and held myself together long enough to make a phone call that confirmed the impossible. “Why?” I asked the school. And they wouldn’t tell me. “I want to improve myself,” I insisted. “I want to become a better applicant.”
Then, I got home and called another school that I applied to. I saw that their cohort was full. If they interviewed me, and if they liked me, I would maybe get a spot on their waitlist.
I couldn’t imagine what went wrong. I honestly still don’t know. I thought I aced that grad school interview. I put on makeup and put on Minnie ears because it was Purim, because the world slows down for no one, not even for girls who are mourning the loss of their futures.
Me and my Minnie ears went to a Purim party, and in the beginning, all I could do was try to keep myself together. I failed, obviously. I was crying in public, thinking, “What’s the point anymore?”, thinking about how my 16-year-old self got into UCLA, which has a 16.1% acceptance rate. And yet my 19-year-old self got rejected by a grad school that is not nearly as hard to get into. How, I thought, after my days of preparation beforehand, after paying for an Uber to come an hour early, after working in mental health since age 15, could this school say ‘no’?
Dad said that someday, they’d have a poster on their wall saying, “Dr. Vera Levi applied here”. But in order to say that, I would first have to be a “Dr.”, which I don’t see how I will become.
Ok. I have an app that records daily gratitudes (have you heard anything that screams ‘psych major’ more than that statement?) and I’m finding it particularly hard to be grateful, but I’m going to give it my best shot, as I do with everything.
1. I’m grateful for my workout with Dad and for the amount of tissues he had in his car, which I used up quickly after hearing about my rejection.
2. I’m grateful for the conversation I had with Rachel at that party
3. And along those lines, I’m grateful for the evening I had, which, despite everything else, seems to have ended on an okay note. My parents are operating under the delusion that it’s all going to be okay. I disagree. My career is my life. Neuropsychology is all I care about.
I know what I’m going through sounds dramatic in words, but in order to understand what I mean, you have to understand who I am. When I am working towards something, I tend to work on it with laser focus. I don’t relent until I accomplish my goal. In the odd case that I fail… well, that hasn’t happened yet, and now it has.
I ended up sitting at that party without talking to anyone (which is very weird, if you know me and my extroverted tendencies). I found a piece of paper and wrote down a long plan. I wasn’t going to put up a white flag just yet.
The next day, I called everyone in the admissions department of my top choice school until I finally got to talk with the director. I wrote down how I would persuade her to tell me why I didn’t get in. “If you had a dream that you’ve been working toward your whole life,” I said to her, “would you give up just because you got rejected?”
She was silent.
“That’s why I need to know what I can do to improve my application.”
“Well, we can theorize, but I can’t give you the exact reason. It’s common not to give a reason in higher education.”
“Okay,” I said. We theorized. But she could not provide an exact reason. “Thank you,” I said stiffly, after realizing that she wasn’t able to help me. “I appreciate it regardless.”
And then I made a plan B.
A lot of the time, it’s not what you know; it’s who you know. My friend Thomas* is a social butterfly, and I end up meeting a lot of people through him. Well, Thomas*’ friend’s dad is the department chair of the Irvine school. In November, I was lucky enough to get a private tour of the campus. I met every staff member. I became obsessed with the program. The only thing stopping me from applying was the cost of living in Irvine.
Now, though, I did not care. I had to go to school somewhere, right? I was cool with living in someone’s basement, as long as I got the education I needed to be a neuropsychologist. I listed the Irvine campus as my first choice instead of the LA campus and applied again.
I was head-over-heels in love with Irvine since I first visited. Maybe it’s because many of my friends live there, or because the Chabad of Irvine makes the most delicious food I’ve ever eaten, or that everyone I’ve met in Irvine has the best personality in the world, no exceptions.
I called the executive admissions counselor, who is the sweetest person on planet Earth (what did I say about people in Irvine?). We talked a lot. I spent all of yesterday rewriting my essay, and long story short, against all odds, my application is now under review in Irvine.
Here’s the advice I got:
Mom: “Don’t worry about the cost of living away from home. You’ll make enough to cover it after you are licensed; take it from me.”
Terrance: “It’s hard to move on when you don’t have an explanation…”
Asya (family friend): “…but it’s for the best.”
I also talked with one of my best friends for an hour. She told me about the cost of living in San Diego, because I applied to a school there after my LA application got rejected. Right now, it looks like I’ll be starting grad school in either Irvine or San Diego in the fall of 2020.
For a long time, I didn’t want to tell anyone what happened. I wanted to make it look like everything was still going as planned, and I definitely wanted to keep all of my blog posts positive.
I think this can still help someone. I want to show what it’s like to plan your life meticulously and then have that plan fall through, and what you should do in the event that it does.
So, see you on the flip side. Maybe in San Diego’s grad school, or maybe in Irvine’s grad school… who knows!