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The waitlist

| Monday, January 29, 2018

Like most of us, I remember the exact moment I received my Notre Dame decision letter.

I was driving home with my father when the email popped up on my phone. Despite my father’s persistent reassurances, the giddy nervousness that filled my veins stalled me from opening it until I arrived home.

When I finally did, my brain was sluggish to conceptualize the word dominating the letter:


I remember the numbness. The sounds of my father’s shock was muted beneath the flood of discouragement that coursed throughout my body. I tried to hold myself together by telling myself there was still hope, still a chance. A waitlist isn’t outright rejection. So why did I feel so disappointed?

Last week, study abroad decisions came out. I stared at the “view decision” link, echoes of memories past freezing my hand despite my roommate’s excited prompting.

I knew Notre Dame International didn’t reject students. I knew there were only two options, and one of them was that dreaded, dubious word.

I was terrified of feeling that numbness again. I prayed I could evade the pity smiles, the skeptical “well there’s still hope” and awkward encouragement from those already accepted. I hated being trapped in that gray area, left in that wavering limbo dependent on others’ decisions.

I clicked on the link.


Immediately, the pessimistic thoughts struck. It was as if a part of me expected it. Maybe I’m just a perpetual waitlistee, I ignorantly thought. Your subpar, average student.

And then I remembered that day I opened my decision letter two years ago.

It took me a long time to realize what getting off the Notre Dame waitlist did for my collegiate experience. When I received a call from Notre Dame undergraduate admissions, the happiness that erupted was one of the most profound feelings I had ever experienced. It was a happiness amplified by that extended wait, one that shed light on my true thoughts and one filled with gratitude that I wasn’t rejected in the first place.

And sometimes, when I’m rushing across campus under the South Bend permacloud in my bulky Sorel boots, internally cursing myself for oversleeping my 11 a.m. and praying I can somehow wing another discussion section, I think about the numbness I felt when I first received my Notre Dame decision. Every time, it makes me pause and recall the gratitude I should feel to be here. Because for a few long weeks of feigned excitement at the prospect of attending universities other than Notre Dame, there was a strong chance I wouldn’t be.

In a lot of ways, the waitlist only reminded me of my faith. I just needed to learn how to embrace that numbness I so deeply feared.

As torturous as the extended wait may be, God’s purpose is more important than my plans. Whether it’s as significant as choosing which university to attend or as trivial as a study abroad location, I trust in whatever is meant for my life. Maybe there’s another path for me, or maybe I’ll make it off the list. I’ll figure it out eventually.

Until then, I’ll keep on waiting.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Kelli Smith

Kelli Smith is a senior at the University of Notre Dame. Originally from El Paso, Texas, she served as Editor-in-Chief at The Observer for the 2019-20 term. She is pursuing majors in political science and television with a minor in journalism. // Twitter: @KelliSmithNews

Contact Kelli