To All the Waitlisted Applicants Ambassadors Have Loved Before: P.S. We Still Love You
January 27, 2022
If you’re reading this, it’s likely you were waitlisted. If you were waitlisted, you’ve probably been binge-reading some blog posts from ambassadors of years past. You know the ones I’m talking about — those from Calvin, from Liz, from Marilyn, from Daniel, from Kat. Maybe you’ve read them twice. Who are we kidding? You eat, sleep, and breathe their words. You hang onto their stories because they give you hope. They provide comfort when you feel most uncertain, guidance when you can’t find it in those around you, and you exit the tab feeling reassured that everything is going to be okay.
Not too long after, your family asks, “Hey, have you heard back from USC? I know you’ve been waiting.” Maybe you open social media or scour online forums and see all the other students who got in. Or you just interviewed for a part-time job in the meantime and they ask, “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” Suddenly, things once again do not feel like they’re going to be okay. So you read another blog, go through the same motions, and continue a vicious cycle that doesn’t seem like it’s ever going to end until you finally get the “Congratulations!” email. Even though you know it’s a vicious cycle, you can’t help but feel this way because your life feels like it’s at a standstill, your future lies in the hands of someone else, and you have no control over any of it.
I know the feeling. Replace all the “you”s above with “I” and they were my same thoughts two years ago when I was waitlisted. Although so much time has passed, I still remember it vividly. If you’re looking for another comforting blog, I’m sorry to inform you this is not it. Generations of ambassadors before me have discussed being waitlisted and I highly recommend them all. Here, I want to share with you some things on my mind during this time, never admitted to anyone else, instead internalized, and took with me into the program which manifested as “imposter syndrome.” (But we’ll talk about that another time.) Looking back, I wish I could go back in time, give myself a hug, reframe the negative self-talk, and instead tell myself what I really needed to hear.
“I wasn’t accepted because I am not good enough.”
Maybe you don’t feel you accurately conveyed who you are through your essay (as if anyone could in “X” amount of characte–). Maybe you’re doubting if it was because of the typo you caught after submitting or your improper grammar, even though English isn’t even your first language. Maybe your GPA wasn’t as high because you went to a competitive school, or you worked multiple jobs during college to pay bills and tuition, or you have other living, breathing human beings relying on you for their survival. Do not write any of these off as “excuses” — all of these are very valid. I’m here to tell you all of that is okay, you don’t need to explain yourself to anyone, and this absolutely does not define your worth as a future OT and more importantly, as a human.
“If I don’t get in this year, I should work even harder to get in next year.”
I remember repeating this to myself and to others so often that as I reflect back on it, I want to cry because of how much my heart aches for this person I used to be. In retrospect, I was working so hard that I can’t imagine how I could have worked any harder for the next application cycle. I took on more shifts as a rehab aide and became one of the first people in my circles with COVID. Listen — nothing is worth risking your health. As future OTs, we need to deemphasize “hustle culture,” especially when it infringes upon our health and happiness.
“Even if I do get in now, it’ll only be a pity acceptance. I didn’t deserve it or earn it.”
So yes, if you get accepted now, it’s because someone who was offered a spot turned it down and chose another path for themselves. My advice? I’m a firm believer in putting out the type of energy into the world that I want in return, so for whoever’s spot you’re “taking,” wish them well as they continue on their OT journey. And once you’re in? Focus on yourself and not how others are doing in comparison to you. You’ve been given a clean slate to start over and move forward.
“Everyone else who got in before me will have more time to prepare.”
Even while you’re waitlisted, begin to think about how you’ll handle housing, transportation, and finances. Beyond that, there is little to no preparation required of you. I know people who were accepted the week before, the day before, and even a day after the program had already started. It all works out and here at Chan, they do everything in their power to make sure it does–you need only ask for help. If you were accepted, if you were waitlisted, if you were none of the above and just a random person reading my blog by happenstance, go and LIVE YOUR LIFE!!! Go climb a tree, take a spin class, jump off a plane whilst strapped to another person and relying only on fabric to catch you, learn to sew, hug your dog, kiss your cat, touch some grass, LIVE LIFEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!! I believe there is no better preparation for starting a graduate program than living your life to the fullest. It is so powerful and restorative to just do something for YOU with no underlying objective other than it would make you happy. It doesn’t advance your career, it doesn’t serve others, it might not even make sense to the world. Take this time to really focus on what makes you happy and think about how you might embed it into your life once you get into school. Engage in your favorite occupations. But safely. I think I’m legally obligated to clarify that I am not liable if you climb a tree. Just kidding (kind of). Live your life. Y’all be safe, though.
“Everyone is going to be so close already and I’m going to feel like an outsider.”
At the start, interactions are so face-value. It’s a lot of small talk, niceties, and formalities. Lots of reading and re-reading your carefully curated introductory profile before posting it. Honestly, it wasn’t until I started the program and got to hear people’s thoughts in class that I thought, “I could really get along with this person on so many levels.” Like yes, it’s so lovely to learn that someone is from the same area as you or that you share the same favorite ice cream flavor, but I came to USC Chan to make meaningful connections with like-minded people whose vulnerability encourages me to grow as a future OT and as a person. Two years later, I’m still having moments like that and making new friends. Don’t worry, there’s time.
“Everyone’s going to know.”
Nobody’s gonna know. How would they know? In fact, most of my classmates who are reading this are probably finding out this information about me for the first time. If you don’t want people to know, you don’t have to tell them. However, if you choose to and people view you differently as a result, it says nothing about who you are.
And most importantly, “I am not going to get any swag.”
“I do not have enough swag,” Teresa writes while sitting atop her mountain of USC Chan pens and foam fingers. “I definitely have more room on my backpack,” she convinces herself while being crushed under the weight of the many buttons she has accumulated over the years. Obviously, I’m kidding. But also . . . get your Chan swag! There will be so many future opportunities and I encourage you to take advantage of them all.
I was actually waitlisted at all three schools I had applied to and told myself I’d commit to wherever I heard from first. I was accepted to all three, with USC being the first and it happened to be my top choice — a big reason for that being the holistic admissions process implemented here and the way Dr. Anvarizadeh spoke about it so passionately. Even though I believe this process to be the most equitable and forward-thinking for the advancement of the OT profession, as with most systems, it is not fail-safe and I knew that going into the application process. I trusted the process anyways, everything worked out how it was supposed to, and I have no regrets, including being waitlisted. It reminded me that who you are on paper and were in the past does not define who you are today and more importantly, who you are on your way to becoming. I feel immensely honored to join the incredible group of ambassadors who were waitlisted and are now some of the most influential mentors I’ve ever had. So whatever the outcome, just know that I’m right here waiting alongside you to join us, too.