Sincerely, Senior: When Dreams Don’t Come True


This week’s senior letter is different than my previous ones. Today, I am just the friend. I will not be the recipient of any special acceptance email on Dec. 15. I have the rare privilege of being a bystander, the cheerleader and the shoulder to cry on. There comes a time when I lack the words to encompass everyone’s feelings, and when I cannot find the words to comfort, I simply listen.

Dear Reader,

The first thing I registered was that the first word was not “Congratulations!”; rather, it was the phrase, “Thank you.”

“Thank you for the opportunity to review your impressive record as a nominee for the Morehead-Cain Scholarship. We regret to inform you that, in spite of your many outstanding qualifications, you were not selected to advance to the final level of our selection process.” It went on to encourage me to apply to UNC despite this rejection, and ended with the signature of the program’s director.

First, I didn’t even read the entire letter. I got to the word “regret,” then closed out of the tab. Then, I re-logged in, clicked the link to my application update again and read the whole letter, then closed out of the tab again. Then I logged back in again and read it one more time, this time in its entirety.

Dec. 15 is a date marked on many seniors’ calendars. Marked, circled and double-underlined, it is the date colleges send out acceptances and rejections for early decision/action candidates. A.K.A., acceptances and rejections most often from the dream schools. However, for me, Dec. 4 was my marked, circled and double-underlined date.

Four years ago, when I was an eighth grader, one of my best friends told me about the Morehead-Cain program at UNC Chapel Hill, the college I had loved since fourth grade when I found out Mia Hamm, my favorite soccer player, went there (enough to make it fourth grade Frances’ school-of-choice).

In short, the Morehead-Cain program was my dream: a full ride to UNC, four summers of travel abroad, fully funded, an extensive and involved alumni network and being a part of a self-named “close-knit community of doers, thinkers, dreamers and adventurers” that has produced congressmen, professional athletes, executives on Forbes’ World’s 100 Most Powerful People list, and countless others in the top of their fields.

The program emphasizes scholarship, leadership, physical vigor and strength of character as its core values. When I say the program was my dream, I am not exaggerating: the program’s website has been bookmarked on my laptop since that day in 8th grade when I found out about it, and I have visited UNC three times since then; half my closet is Carolina Blue, and there is nothing that irks me quite like a Duke Blue Devils athletic victory.

At the beginning of the school year, I was chosen as the Hockaday nominee for the Morehead-Cain program and saw the first steps of my dream becoming reality. I spent hours on my application. My friends and family told me I fit the program to a tee. I was selected as a semifinalist for the program.

Then, Dec. 4 rolled around, the date the Morehead-Cain finalist notifications came out. The decision was set to come out at 4 p.m., so I, bound to school property during a Y period, went on a run to try to take my mind off the anticipation. I finished my run around 4:10, got into my car and logged into my Morehead-Cain applicant account.

An alert popped up—“You have one update regarding your application status”—and prompted me to click the link to see the update. I clicked, and the rejection letter filled my screen. “Thank you…”

To be honest, I was pretty crushed. To be more honest, I am still pretty crushed. Reading a rejection letter is something Hockaday, in all its greatness, did not prepare me for. Having a nameless selection committee pull the rug out from under my four-year dream was hard. So, so hard. I started scrolling through the last four years’ of my life, wondering what it was about me that wasn’t enough for them. As I read the rejection letter, questions ballooned out of all my insecurities and exploded through my mind.

Why didn’t I say more in my interview? I asked myself.

Why didn’t I do more the last four years? The self-deprecation continued.

Why aren’t I more? And that was what I thought. That I was insufficient—had not been a good enough student, leader, athlete, or person. Had not studied enough in school, had not led the Student Council or the Wesley Rankin Teen Board well enough, had not been a good enough friend, had not run enough miles—had not been enough. I’ve always believed that if I worked hard, everything would work out how I wanted it to. But I worked hard—so, so hard, as we all have—for the last four years, and that was not enough for them.

But it needs to be enough for me. And that is what I’m finding out as I am writing this. I don’t want this to end with the clichéd, “This was meant to be, and I’ll be okay, come out a better person because of it, and live a better life,” because I don’t 100 percent believe that. This program was my dream, and it would have set me up on an incredible path to success. But everything I have done, I have done for myself, not for this nameless selection committee. So, that needs to be enough for me, what will let me find my own path to success.

I keep thinking that if log back in one more time, the letter will change. It will begin with the word “Congratulations!,” instead of “Thank you,” and my heart will inflate with happiness at what must have been some technical mistake in their system. But it won’t, and I know that. So I need to stop logging back in, stop dwelling on the rejection, and be enough for myself. Because a nameless selection committee does not take away four years of hard work, of discovering my passions and of becoming myself—a student, leader, athlete and person that I am proud to be.


Frances Burton


To everyone expecting a special email in the next  week, know that you have many cheerleaders, many shoulders to cry on and when we do not have words to say, we will listen.

-Austria Arnold

Sincerely, Senior is a blog focusing on senior experiences and is managed weekly by Castoff Editor Austria Arnold.