After procrastinating in every way possible, I was finally forced to study for my astronomy exam. Sitting at my desk, I flipped uselessly through my notes, and happened to glance over a sentence I had hurriedly scribbled in the last 10 seconds of class: “The sun should NOT exist.”
Intrigued, I opened up the lecture notes to (re)discover what my professor had explained in class. I remembered that the odds for the perfect conditions that allowed the sun to come into being were improbable. And that even in those conditions, the odds for enough particles to react in ways that make the sun’s energy self-sustaining are very close to impossible. The existence of humanity rests directly on the existence of the sun—an existence that is incredibly, ridiculously improbable.
And yet, there it is. And here we are. Every day, the sun rises. Every day, we rise with it. Against all odds, the sun keeps burning, and we keep living.
Before I was in this astronomy class—before I was even a student here—I knew next to nothing about this star that keeps us alive. I also didn’t know how desperately I needed to stop doubting myself. Little did I realize that, like the impossible sun, I would beat the odds and shine.
Last year, I was an unhappy first-year at Villanova University. I never slept, I never finished my readings, my homework felt pointless, and I had no idea what to major in. My printer never worked. My roommate was irritating. The Wi-Fi gave me more grief than my own mother, which says quite a lot. But it was all fine because I was just an unhappy college student, like everyone else. Or so I thought.
Then, I came home for Christmas break. My high school friends could not stop talking about how much they loved their first semester. Sure, they had annoying roommates and spotty routers, but I didn’t get the sense that anyone felt as aimless as I did. Not one of my friends complained about how pointless their education felt. I decided that maybe I wasn’t an unhappy college student; I was just… unhappy. I realized that when I applied for college the first time around, I was both unenthusiastic and overconfident. I simply didn’t care. And so naturally, when I got into Villanova, I did not feel like it was my admission to celebrate. It wasn’t something I had done, it was just something that had happened to me.
But after a semester, I was ready to do something. I opened a Common App account and impulsively applied to every city school that came to mind. It didn’t matter what school it was, as long as it was not in a suburb and it was not Villanova. I picked Columbia for the sole (and naïve) reason that I appreciated how it combined the traditional college campus feel with the busy hustle and bustle of a large city. I knew admission was extremely competitive. I knew there was no way I was getting in. But I also knew that I liked New York, and that I was ready to take charge of my life. So I applied to Columbia. Just in case.
I am not a destined “Ivy League student.” My parents did not go to Harvard, Princeton, or Yale. I didn’t dream of attending some hallowed institution since the time I could talk. Don’t tell anyone, but until last year, I didn’t even know Columbia was an Ivy League school. So I don’t know how I got through the application process without doubting myself enough to give up, without ignoring my dissatisfaction and carrying on at Villanova. I’m not sure why, but I didn’t. The odds of me applying were improbable. And the odds of me actually being admitted, well, those were very close to impossible.
And yet, here I am. I still don’t sleep, I don’t always finish my reading, and I still have yet to choose a major. But this time, I don’t feel quite so aimless. I trust in the process a little bit more. I have faith in the fact that if I’ve made it here—to Columbia, the “greatest college in the greatest university in the greatest city in the world”—no matter how improbable it was, it must be for a reason, even if it is one that I have yet to discover. And the best part about it is that, unlike the sun, I am not alone.
I am surrounded by other transfer students, Columbia students, and professors who remind me with their own luminosity that it’s okay to shine bright, even in the darkness of uncertainty and improbability. This is something that, without having transferred, I’m afraid I might not have ever realized.
The sun should not exist, but nevertheless, there it is, and it keeps burning. I should not be at an Ivy League school, but nevertheless, here I am, and so I will keep working.
What I ultimately learned from transferring is that we shouldn’t be so quick to feel like we are unworthy. And even if we are unworthy, it is never too late to prove ourselves. We may be undeserving of the sun, but still, the sun rises. It is here, whether we deserve it or not. And so whether or not I think I deserve to be a student at Columbia, I am here. Every morning, like the impossible sun, I rise. And tomorrow when I rise, I will have that astronomy exam, so I’d better start studying.
The author is an indecisive sophomore in Columbia College. She is an advising fellow for Matriculate, and is also the Residence Hall Leadership Organization representative for her hall council.
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