BY: GRACE CHO
I had finally turned in all my college applications and now it was just a waiting game between the schools and me. This was one of those bittersweet moments. I was officially done with the SATs, APs, and writing about who I am, or think I am, in 250 words or less but I was leaving one of the most formative and vital institutions that I was happy and comfortable in. My first choice was Stanford and for two years, I had dreamed about my life at Stanford: lying on the grass while sharing a laugh with my new friends, exploring the beautiful campus, and going on road trips to San Francisco, and so much more that my finite mind couldn’t even fabricate. Soon, my dream of two years would either become my reality or a hopeless vision.
In late March, my first decision letter arrived. It was from Washington University in St. Louis. Honestly, I expected to get in because my college counselor had told me that I had a solid chance. But the letter I received in my mailbox was small and thin. Everyone knows that a small, thin envelope is not a good sign. It’s the notorious first sign of rejection. I didn’t even bother opening it until a couple minutes later when I prepared myself a little more for the promised disappointment. I consoled myself and said, “It’s fine. At least it wasn’t from Stanford.” But even after saying that, I was defeated. I thought none of the schools I applied to would want me.
A week went by and I received another decision. It was from UC Davis. I opened the e-mail and in big bold letters it wrote, “CONGRATULATIONS!” I honestly considered going to Davis because my best friend goes there and I love the ambiance of the campus whenever I visit. I was content with the acceptance but not really moved.
Then the fun part came. All the schools I applied to began sending out their decisions to thousands of hopeful applicants and I was one of them. It was like a wave that either knocked me off my feet or helped me sail farther to reach my dream. When I was accepted by UCLA, I started bawling. I called everyone on my contact list and screamed into the phone making them half-deaf. My parents weren’t amused, though. I mean, UCLA is a great school but to them, it’s no Stanford.
My last UC decision letter came from Berkeley. To be honest, the only reason I applied to Berkeley was because it was just a check mark away. I didn’t expect anything out of it and I knew my chances of getting accepted were incredibly slim. The e-mail that Berkeley sent me to receive my decision redirected me to another website. As if it wasn’t nerve-racking enough that an e-mail would justify my whole being and purpose, this e-mail told me to find my future in another site. So I click the website link, type in all my information, and there it was, the first word my eye catches: “Congratulations!” I was confused. Did I really just get into UC Berkeley? Do they seriously want me? Did they send this to the right Grace Cho? I thought this was all a joke. I kept refreshing the page and nothing changed. It kept congratulating me. I called my parents, older brother, and close friends and told them the good news. However, this excitement waned after a couple hours. I still had Stanford to worry about.
The very next day, April 1st, was the day. I’ve waited years for this exact day to come but in that moment, it only felt like I’ve waited for five minutes. I waited until five o’clock in the evening just like thousands of other eager seniors hoping to get in. I get a notification on my phone saying that I received an e-mail from Stanford so I quickly run to my computer. My hands quiver as I sign into my e-mail. I see the e-mail from Stanford and I take a deep breath before clicking it. The word “sorry” was all I had to read. I knew everything I had worked hard for meant nothing at that point. The worst thing about this rejection was that I blamed it all on God. I asked him why he would let this happen to me and why he hates me. I know many Christians struggle with this too. As soon as one thing goes wrong, even amidst all the right that can happen, we begin to hate God. We turn our backs on him and betray him.
I didn’t even cry when I got the rejection from Stanford. It was mostly because I had gotten into Berkeley and I knew I was still going to go to a great school. I entered my first year of college with many things in mind: studying, making lasting friends and memories, and learning to be independent. They were the main ones. The one thing that I never considered, for even a minute, was going to church. At that particular point in my life, I was still a little bitter towards God because he stole Stanford from me. But as soon as I arrived at Berkeley, I was bombarded by Him. He kept putting people in front of me who told me to check out churches and fellowships. I finally gave in and went out to a Livingwater Church event within the first week of school (that’s how fast God was working in me). I was reluctant as I walked into the event but I remained optimistic and excited to meet new freshmen.
The beautiful thing about God is that he works in mysterious ways. It’s always a surprise with him and you really have to expect the unexpected. To my surprise, I fell in love with the church and its people at the event. So I decided to go to church just to meet new people but not to meet God. I went out to one of the Sunday services and instantly felt at home and at ease. It was so natural and everything was in its rightful place. That day, I sincerely prayed to God. Something I hadn’t done in years. I thanked him for his kindness and I stopped thinking about what happened with Stanford. In retrospect, God had a plan for me at Berkeley. I know that if I had gone to Stanford, my life would be completely different. I can’t surely say that I would’ve never found God there but knowing myself, I don’t think I would have.
I realize that I can’t do anything without Him. He’s the one that gives me a purpose in life and a path to walk through. Stanford never happened for me not because I was inadequate or because God hates me, but because God’s plan didn’t involve me at that school. My purpose is at Berkeley. I’m still growing and learning not to blame Him for every little thing that goes wrong. I know the next four years are going to be tough but I know God will provide just as He did with Berkeley.