Last March — a couple of months before graduating from Staples High School — Zoe Brown got the legendary fat envelope from the University of Southern California. That’s the good news.
The bad news: She would have to wait nearly a year. Her acceptance was for spring.
Zoe described her reaction — and what’s happened since — on her well-written, entertaining “IMO” blog. Her words should be read by every Staples senior waiting for their own college news — and everyone else in town too.
Knowing that I would not start college at the same time as all my friends was scary and upsetting. I knew I should have been excited, but I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed, even cheated.
Could I still make friends? Find my place? Graduate on time? What was I supposed to do for a whole semester? Should I turn down my dream school for one that offered me admission in the fall?
But after finishing up my fall semester at Santa Monica College — a highly ranked community college — I realize that being admitted in the spring was a blessing in disguise. I learned so many lessons and went through so many new experiences that I never would have if I’d started school in the fall.
This past semester I lived in an apartment building off campus, with 3 other girls.
With no meal plan, I bought my own groceries and cooked (more like “managed to throw together”) my own meals. With no resident assistant or instruction of any sort, I learned to deal with any issue independently.
I learned through clogged toilets, growing mold and festering food that I actually have to clean my surroundings thoroughly, like with a sponge and some special foam scrub.
And from my free time and the 3,000 miles separating me from my parents and most of my friends, I focused on putting myself out there to meet new people.
Most importantly, I also learned to enjoy spending some time with someone who will always be there for me: myself.
Being a spring admit forced me to branch way outside my comfort zone.
Westport — where over 90 percent of the population is white and most people live comfortably, even luxuriously — is nothing like Santa Monica College. Here I met just about as many Asians and Hispanics as I did whites.
I met a girl who was admitted to New York University, but had to turn it down for financial reasons. I met a boy from Maryland who lives on his own, and works full-time at a real estate agency. I met a woman 3 times my age who is going to school for the first time, and a boy who knows everything about gangs.
At SMC I discovered that there is so much more outside the bubble that was my hometown and my high school. I’d heard about it before, and I’ve traveled a bit in my lifetime. But until now, I’ve never lived in a place where I could see what else is out there.
If you’re at USC, chances are you worked hard throughout high school. If not, you must have worked hard in some other way.
I worked so hard straight through my 4 years of high school that I never had time to do so many things.
Being a spring admit and having so much more time than a normal college student allowed me to cross many of these things off my to-do list.
I had time to explore Southern California in every way – from getting lost on hikes and cruising along the Pacific Coast Highway, to buying books for $1 at The Last Bookstore and doing an overnight trip to Laguna Hills.
I had time to start this blog, to write for other publications, and to actually read books for my own pleasure. Most importantly I had time to breathe, and realize how grateful I should be for where I am today.
Yes, sometimes it sucks to be a little behind socially, and live a walk away from all the on-campus happenings. When it does seem to suck, I try my best to remember that I still made it to the school I dreamed about for years. There’s no reason to be anything but thrilled and proud about that.
Anyway, what’s one less semester, when I’ve got the whole rest of my life to keep FIGHTING ON! with the Trojan family?
(To read Zoe’s full story — and the rest of her blog — click here.)