An open letter to the applicants, regardless of decision.
Whether you’re elated or disappointed or heartbroken, whether you’ve read everything I’ve ever written or have never heard of this pretentious Joe Singh with a dorky shirt who’s telling you to read what he writes, this is intended for you. As always, it is written with honesty and what I hope is integrity and placed before you because I really hope it will matter.
So you’ve gotten your decisions back from Tufts, and I imagine other schools as well. The wait is over, and if you were anything like me in the months spanning endlessly from January to April, that was the hardest part. Now I need you to do me a favor. Trust me, okay? This is important.
Hi again! See that little 2 in the URL? That’s there because this was posted a second time. I first wrote that when decisions were released during my freshman year at Tufts, way back in March 2012. The admissions process was still burned into my memory, from the joy to which I clung at getting into Tufts and a couple of other comparable schools to the heartache branded into me from losing out on a school I’d dreamed of for years. Acceptance was a balm, but rejection still hurt.
A year later, I was a sophomore, and I asked permission to re-post To The Brave because, paraphrasing my words to Justin Pike, it captured the sentiment better than I could a second time. So it went up again, and it was received even better.
But here’s the thing: I’m a junior now. The class that was just admitted was the last class that I will ever share the Hill with, and that gives a guy some perspective. The sentiments I express in To The Brave have not diminished. Let me make that clear: I will never, ever forget the pain you guys are feeling, and I will never take it lightly.
The difference is that enough time has passed that I have a new perspective from which to write about this. And so I return, and this time my letter carries advice instead of just commiseration—although I think the latter is important and always necessary.
So, without further ado but with hopefully a slightly wiser perspective, here it is.
If you got in, what I said in To The Brave stands. Soak it in, ride cloud 9.
If you were stopped with one foot in and one out, understand very clearly that you’re not a backup, and you’re not an alternate. You’re the one Tufts wanted but couldn’t have, and you will be the one that got away. You are not on a lesser list, and you are absolutely, positively worth just as much to the officers that had to turn back as the ones that made it all the way in. Be just as proud, except with a little shoulder shrug that sometimes even a place like Tufts can’t have it all.
And to those of you who won’t be Jumbos this September: think about what you accomplished. I mean that, and I don’t mean that in some conciliatory “participation awards for all the children!” kind of way. You matter so much, to so many people. You have touched lives in ways you cannot even understand, and brought joy to people in ways you could never even imagine.
You can spend your time trying to parse out the flaws in your application but I need to stop you from doing something really, really dumb, and that is conflating your application with you. Your SAT or ACT score and your grade in high school biology are whatever the hell they are, I couldn’t care less. I’m talking to you, the shower singer who holds a bottle of shampoo like a microphone, the complete dork who has to contain themselves when their favorite show is mentioned, the rabid fan who bleeds and dies with their sports teams.
I’m talking to the young lady who makes her parents’ hearts melt with pride with every little motion, every gesture of decency, every snappy comeback. I’m talking to the young man whose friends look up to him in ways he’ll never understand because he insists on standing outside of the spotlight. I’m talking to you, the one who cried and maybe is still crying because you think missing out on a school will stop you from becoming an achiever like nothing you ever imagined.
Boys and girls, my brave, brave souls, you are infinite. You don't know it yet but everyone else does. You're a dormant storm, a star flashing before it goes supernova.
You are possibility, and I am so excited for you because sooner or later you will realize it. It doesn’t matter if it’s at Tufts or anywhere else, what matters is that you are going to grow into someone worthy of remembrance.
I’m talking to all of you as the people you are, because those people have value beyond measure. Don’t ever doubt this: you are nothing short of extraordinary. You are a canvas with the potential to show every star in the sky, a work of art that will finish itself. You are a spark of pure, vivid life burning in the heart of more people than you can even count.
So step back from your computer or phone or iPad. Hug your mom and tell her you’ll be okay, even if you don’t believe me, because I swear to you that you will and her heart is breaking because you don’t realize it. Text a friend and make a stupid, dorky, inappropriate joke that lets them know that the person they care about like a brother or a sister will be just fine. Go to school and tell the teacher who wrote you a glowing recommendation what happened, and then thank them from the bottom of your heart for believing in you because you’re that one student, that one gem, that they spent a decade waiting for before you arrive. And after you go, they’ll spend a decade remembering you as making every miserably long day of a long career, every disrespectful punk, every bumbling holier-than-thou administrator, utterly, utterly worth it. Pick your life back up, because as much as I love Tufts it's not worth hitting stop on your story. Nothing is worth that.
And that's my advice to you: cherish those who cherish you, because the world will be a better place if everyone learns to do that. Embrace those who supported you because it is their love that will sustain you through your darkest days, and it is their love that will be the constant that defines the life you are going to lead.
And then go to college, and open yourself up to everything. Tufts missed out on you, and I feel really bad for Tufts, because somewhere out there is a school that’s just waiting to give you the tools you need to burst forth, twiddling its thumbs and counting down until you arrive and make your mark on its campus before striding forth to make your mark on the world.
Some of you are Jumbos. Some are not.
You’re all going to make your mark. You’re all great books, epics with a page corner curling up from the bottom right, as one Act segues into another.
Class of 2018, whether you come to the Hill or go somewhere far, far beyond my feeble imagination, each and every single one of you is going to become the greatest story ever told.
Now pick up your pen.
With love and heartfelt respect, always,