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Chicken Soup for the College Soul
Inspiring and Humorous Stories About College
By Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Kimberly Kirberger, Dan Clark, James Malinchak
Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2012 Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing, LLC
All rights reserved.
And yet not a dream, but a mighty reality— a glimpse of the higher life, the broader possibilities of humanity, which is granted to the man who, amid the rush and roar of living, pauses four short years to learn what living means.
W. E. B. DuBois
Never Say Never
I cannot remember a point in my life when I desired anything other than becoming a teacher. As a child, I played school with my little cousins and friends just so I could practice for my future career. But what I didn't realize as a child was how expensive my dream was. I came from a middle-class family, and it seemed as though we'd always struggled to make ends meet. My dream of attending the University of Connecticut seemed so out of reach, but I wasn't willing to settle for anything less.
In the beginning of my senior year in high school, I began applying to colleges, but in my heart I had already made my decision. The University of Connecticut was the one. But a huge hurdle stood between me and my dream—lack of financial resources.
At first, I was ready to give up. I mean, who was going to give me, the average high- school girl, that kind of money? I wasn't the smartest person in my class, not even close; but my heart was in the right place, and I was determined. I knew that scholarships were only given to the really smart kids, or so I thought. I applied for every scholarship I could get my hands on. What did I have to lose? And then my guidance counselor told me about the financial aid system. I applied, but I didn't think I would qualify for that either.
After the holidays, my friends started receiving their acceptance letters from colleges, and I eagerly anticipated mine. Finally, a letter arrived from the University of Connecticut. Feelings of fear and joy overwhelmed me, but I was ready. I opened the envelope with trembling hands as tears engulfed my eyes. I had done it! I had been accepted to the University of Connecticut! I cried for a while, feeling both extremely excited and afraid. I had worked so hard to get accepted; what if I was denied admission because of my financial status?
I had been working a full-time job, but that was barely enough to pay for tuition. My parents couldn't afford that kind of money, and I wasn't going to pretend that they could. I was the first person in my family who would attend a university, and I knew how proud my parents were; but it was impossible for them to finance my education. However, my parents are incredible people, and they taught me never to give up on my dreams, regardless of the obstacles that I encounter, and never to lose sight of what I truly want out of life. My parents were right, and I continued to believe in both myself and my dreams.
Months went by before I heard anything from the financial aid office. I assumed that I didn't qualify for aid, but I wasn't ready to lose hope yet. At last, a letter arrived. I opened it eagerly, but it was a false alarm. The letter requested more information in order to process my application.
This happened over and over, and my hopes kept getting shot down. Finally, a bulky envelope arrived. I knew this was the one that would determine whether or not I could attend college. I opened the envelope and could hardly understand what any of the documents inside meant.
The following day, I brought the documents to school and asked my guidance counselor to take a look at them. He looked up at me with a huge smile on his face and told me that not only was financial aid going to help me out with my expenses, but I had also won two of the scholarships I had applied for! I was in shock at first, then I cried. I had actually made my dream come true.
I am now a junior at the University of Connecticut, pursuing a degree in English. In the beginning of the new millennium, my dream will become a reality. I will be a teacher. I live by this quote: "Reach for the sky because if you should happen to miss, you'll still be among the stars."
Bloopers from College Admission Essays
Caught up in the hurly-burly, helter-skelter and huggermugger of college applications, a student aspiring to enter Bates College once wrote, "I am in the mist of choosing colleges." The admissions departments at Bates and Vassar Colleges have compiled a list of bloopers from their admissions essays:
If there was a single word to describe me, that word would have to be "profectionist."
I was abducted into the national honor society.
In my senior year, I am serving as writting editor of the yearbook.
I want to be bilingual in three or more languages.
I have made the horror role every semester.
I want a small liberal in the northeast part of the country.
Bates is a college I can excell in.
I am writing to tell you that I was very discouraged when I found out that I had been differed from Bates.
I am thinking of possibly transferring to your college. I applied as an undergraduate but was weight listed.
I first was exposed through a friend who attends Vassar.
I would love to attend a college where the foundation was built upon women.
My mother worked hard to provide me with whatever I needed in my life, a good home, a stale family and a wonderful education.
Playing the saxophone lets me develop technique and skill which will help me in the future, since I would like to become a doctor.
Such things as divorces, separations and annulments greatly reduce the need for adultery to be committed.
I am proud to be able to say that I have sustained from the use of drugs, alcohol and tobacco products.
I've been a strong advocate of the abomination of drunk driving.
Activities: Cook and serve homeless.
Another activity I take personally is my church Youth Group.
He was a modest man with an unbelievable ego.
The worst experience that I have probably ever had to go through emotionally was when other members of PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) and I went to Pennsylvania for their annual pigeon shooting.
Now it is clear why one candidate wrote in his or her admissions essay, "I would like to see my own ignorance wither into enlightenment."
Want some help with college tuition? You might qualify for one of these scholarships. In 1994, it was announced that:
The Frederick & Mary F. Beckley Fund for Needy Left-handed Freshman offers up to $1,000 for left-handers who want to go to Juanita College in Pennsylvania.
The National Make It Yourself with Wool scholarship offers $100–$1,000 to knitters.
The Dolphin Scholarship Foundation offers $1,750 to the children of WWII submarine veterans.
The John Gatling Scholarship Program offers $6,000 to anyone with the last name Gatlin or Gatling who wants to go to the University of North Carolina.
Tall Clubs International offers two scholarships of $1,000 each for females 5'10" or taller, and males 6'2" or taller.
Uncle John's Great Big Bathroom Reader
The Envelope, Please
The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and if they can't find them, make them.
George Bernard Shaw
When I found out I didn't get into the colleges I wanted to go to, I was in New York City on a school trip. I called home from a pay phone, and my little sister, Alex, said four envelopes had arrived: Georgetown, Cornell, William and Mary and the University of Massachusetts. She then opened and read them to me in her adenoidal, ten-year-old voice: "We regret that we do not have a place for you...." Rejected from Georgetown. "You were one of many qualified candidates...." Rejected from Cornell. And number seventy-three on a waiting list of seventy-five at William and Mary. Accepted to U Mass, my safety school.
I didn't digest the rejections immediately. I toured the United Nations, took Amtrak home and went back to school. Then I realized that other people had gotten into schools they really wanted to go to. Up to that point in my seventeen years, I hadn't really failed at anything. I got good grades, made varsity and scored well on my SATs. I hadn't experienced any major disappointments in my life—no deaths, no disease, no divorce, no cavities even. So being rejected seemed apocalyptic.
I had always assumed I'd go to one of the "good schools." I really wanted to be chosen: This is the place for smart people, and we want you. U Mass, on the other hand, had the reputation of being a party school—to which, come September, I'd be headed with the guy who sat next to me in tenth-grade history and who, during tests, left his book open on the floor and flipped through it with his feet.
I became bitter. I compared everyone's grades and talents to my own in a desperate attempt to make my own misfortune add up. "Of course she got into Harvard. Her dad went there. Who needs a frontal lobe when you're a legacy?" I was melodramatic. Talking to teachers, relatives or friends, I'd say, "I'm going to U Mass," projecting my indignation onto them. Not U Mass, I'd imagine them thinking. Not you. I'd draw a deep breath, raise my eyebrows and frown slightly, like some old Yankee farmer confirming the death of a faithful plow-ox.
I did not get proactive like my friend Heather, who, having been rejected by her first choice, made I Love Lucystyle plans to drive to the Duke campus with her soccer ball and her science-fair project to show the admissions board exactly what they were rejecting. I simply adopted the mantra, "I'll transfer after one semester." And I'd say things like, "I've decided to forego the bachelor's degree and take a cake-decorating course." The subtext in all these conversations was: I'm stupid. The world isn't fair. I made my jokes right up to the registration desk in my dorm, where I had my little sister present my paperwork and pretend to be me.
The strangest thing happened, though: I liked U Mass. I met Marci, my soul mate, whose first choice had also been Cornell. However, U Mass had been her second. Finally I'd found someone who would take a nightly three-mile jog with me to buy a sundae. And I met lots of other smart, funny, interesting people.
I liked my classes, too. It didn't take me that long to figure out that basically, college is college, wherever. Sometimes on weekends, when I didn't want to see anyone I knew, I'd head downtown to study in the library at Amherst College—the Shangri-la of competitive colleges. Walking across campus, I'd think, Why don't I go here? Inside, the students weren't so unlike the ones back at U Mass, whether they were studying, napping or procrastinating. I realized that trading U Mass for any other school would be a pretty shallow move: I'd be deserting my friends and my classes so I could have some Oriental rugs and hi-pro name on my T-shirts, diploma and résumé.
Now I only occasionally wonder if going to some fancy-pants school would have made a difference in my life. My one friend from Amherst calls me every so often—collect—to beweep her unsatisfying stints as a waitress or a receptionist at a company whose name she can't pronounce. She tends to say, "God, I should have just gone to U Mass." And then, "The real world is so unfair."
Welcome to it, I think.
If the Dream Is Big Enough, the Facts Don't Count
I used to watch her from my kitchen window and laugh. She seemed so small as she muscled her way through the crowd of boys on the playground. The school was across the street from our home, and I often stood at my window, hands buried in dishwater or cookie dough, watching the kids as they played during recess. A sea of children, and yet to me, she stood out from them all.
I remember the first day I saw her playing basketball. I watched in wonder as she ran circles around the other kids. She managed to shoot jump-shots just over their heads and into the net. The boys always tried to stop her, but no one could.
I began to notice her at other times, on that same blacktop, basketball in hand, playing alone. She practiced dribbling and shooting over and over again, sometimes until dark. One day I asked her why she practiced so much. As she turned her head, her dark ponytail whipped quickly around, and she looked directly into my eyes. Without hesitating, she said, "I want to go to college. My dad wasn't able to go to college, and he has talked to me about going for as long as I can remember. The only way I can go is if I get a scholarship. I like basketball. I decided that if I were good enough, I would get a scholarship. I am going to play college basketball. I want to be the best. My daddy told me if the dream is big enough, the facts don't count." Then she smiled and ran toward the court to recap the routine I had seen over and over again.
Well, I had to give it to her—she was determined. I watched her through those junior high years and into high school. Every week, she led her varsity team to victory. It was always a thrill to watch her play.
One day in her senior year, I saw her sitting in the grass, head cradled in her arms. I walked across the street and sat down beside her. Quietly I asked what was wrong.
"Oh, nothing," came a soft reply. "I am just too short." The coach had told her that at five-feet, five-inches tall, she would probably never get to play for a top-ranked team— much less be offered a scholarship—so she should stop dreaming about college.
She was heartbroken, and I felt my own throat tighten as I sensed her disappointment. I asked her if she had talked to her dad about it yet.
She lifted her head from her hands and told me that her father said those coaches were wrong. They just did not understand the power of a dream. He told her that if she really wanted to play for a good college, if she truly wanted a scholarship, that nothing could stop her except one thing—her own attitude. He told her again, "If the dream is big enough, the facts don't count."
The next year, as she and her team went to the Northern California Championship game, she was seen by a college recruiter who was there to watch the opposing team. She was indeed offered a scholarship, a full ride, to an NCAA Division I women's basketball team. She accepted. She was going to get the college education that she had dreamed of and worked toward for all those years. And that little girl had more playing time as a freshman and sophomore than any other woman in the history of that university.
Late one night, during her junior year of college, her father called her. "I'm sick, Honey. I have cancer. No, don't quit school and come home. Everything will be okay. I love you."
He died six weeks later—her hero, her dad. She did leave school those last few days to support her mother and care for her father. Late one night, during the final hours before his death, he called for her in the darkness.
As she came to his side, he reached for her hand and struggled to speak. "Rachel, keep dreaming. Don't let your dream die with me. Promise me," he pleaded. "Promise me."
In those last few precious moments together, she replied, "I promise, Daddy."
Those years to follow were hard on her. She was torn between school and her family, knowing her mother was left alone with a new baby and three other children to raise. The grief she felt over the loss of her father was always there, hidden in that place she kept inside, waiting to raise its head at some unsuspecting moment and drop her again to her knees.
Everything seemed harder. She struggled daily with fear, doubt and frustration. A severe learning disability had forced her to go to school year-round for three years just to keep up with requirements. The testing facility on campus couldn't believe she had made it through even one semester. Every time she wanted to quit, she remembered her father's words: "Rachel, keep dreaming. Don't let your dream die. If the dream is big enough, you can do anything! I believe in you." And of course, she remembered the promise she made to him.
My daughter kept her promise and completed her degree. It took her six years, but she did not give up. She can still be found sometimes as the sun sets, bouncing a basketball. And often I hear her tell others, "If the dream is big enough, the facts don't count."
The difference between the impossible and the possible lies in a person's determination.
The day I met Hani Irmawati, she was a shy, seventeen-year-old girl standing alone in the parking lot of the international school in Indonesia, where I teach English. The school is expensive and does not permit Indonesian students to enroll. She walked up to me and asked if I could help her improve her English. I could tell it took immense courage for the young Indonesian girl in worn clothing to approach me and ask for my help.
"Why do you want to improve your English?" I asked her, fully expecting her to talk about finding a job in a local hotel.
"I want to go to an American university," she said with quiet confidence. Her idealistic dream made me want to cry.
I agreed to work with her after school each day on a volunteer basis. For the next several months, Hani woke each morning at five and caught the city bus to her public high school. During the one-hour ride, she studied for her regular classes and prepared the English lessons I had given her the day before. At four o'clock in the afternoon, she arrived at my classroom, exhausted but ready to work. With each passing day, as Hani struggled with college-level English, I grew more fond of her. She worked harder than most of my wealthy expatriate students.
Excerpted from Chicken Soup for the College Soul by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Kimberly Kirberger, Dan Clark, James Malinchak. Copyright © 2012 Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing, LLC. Excerpted by permission of Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing, LLC.
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