New Bern, NC – The day I received my admissions decision from Columbia University, I heard from a friend that Alma Mater either outstretched her bronze arms to you or smacked you in the face. Poetic language aside, I would either be accepted or rejected. After finally logging in to my Columbia homepage at 5:02 PM EST and clicking the link "Your Admissions Decision", the first word I saw was "disappointed." I thought I would be the only kid not accepted from the early decision Ivy pool at Parrott Academy. Everyone's going to come to school tomorrow resplendent in his or her Cornell and Yale apparel and I will be wearing black. You know what? I'm destroying every piece of blue clothing in my closet. I'm taking a pair of scissors and a bleach pen to Dad's Columbia sweatshirt. I am detoxing and ridding myself of anything Columbia-related right after I read this letter.
Fortunately, for my father's wardrobe and mine, I regained composure long enough to read the electronic letter from top to bottom and discover that I had not been rejected, but "deferred". For those of you who are lucky enough to not be familiar with the college process of today, let me enlighten you. Deferral can only occur when you apply early decision to a college. When an institution reads your application and decides they need a little more information from you, the admissions team sets your application aside and waits until March to reevaluate it, this time among all the regular decision candidates. I personally think it's some sort of secret gauge for a prospective student's patience. That and their sanity.
I hit Speed Dial Number Two with trepidation. What would my mother's reaction be? She and I had discussed what events would come to pass only if I was accepted or rejected; deferral was never mentioned. The call went straight to voicemail. I then called my dad, who answered on the second ring with, "So?" I paused and then blurted, "I got deferred." Silence. He must hate me. "Good. I'm glad. Have you told your mother yet?" This was not the response I anticipated from my dad, the man who when I came home with a 97 on my math test would say, "What happened to the other three points?" I stuttered back, "No, I haven't told her yet." A few seconds later, my mother was on the phone. Her voice wobbled as she quietly asked me, "What happened?" When I told her of the news, I heard an audible sigh of relief come from the other end of the phone. "I'm proud of you, Olivia. We'll be home soon. Show us the letter when we come in, okay?" I nodded and closed my phone. This was too calm to be normal. My parents were probably beating their chests and tearing their hair out in some sort of primal gesture of rage as my brothers looked on in horror, making mental notes to get accepted to their first-choice schools.
As it turned out, my parents weren't stark raving lunatics when they greeted me downstairs. They read my deferral letter and told me how proud they were that I was being given a second chance. Like most other instances in my life, my parents proved to be right. I could have been outright rejected and reduced to a puddle of mascara and tears, but I was just put on the back burner until March. It's not the happiest news to admit, especially when you're talking to your peers who were accepted to an Ivy League school the same night you were deferred from one. For this, I took solace in my favorite heroine and semi-role model, Scarlett O'Hara. She wept as her life of prestige and glamour crumbled around her, but vowed her life wasn't ending. Just like Scarlett's, neither was mine.