As the college application process ends and the college decision season begins, I’ve been thinking back to where I was this time last year.

A year ago I was just like you all, biting away at my nails, waiting for college decisions, and wondering constantly if all my efforts these past four years were enough to get me into a good college. To distract myself, I mindlessly scrolled through Instagram and Snapchat, only to be harassed by pictures and videos of my classmate’s acceptance letters into colleges and universities, most notably UC’s, Ivy’s, and 7/8 year med programs. I wanted to be happy for my friends, I really did, but inside I felt defeated and worthless.

Many thoughts spiraled in my head.

“I shouldn’t have taken so long to write my college essay.” “I should’ve studied more for my SAT.” “I should’ve applied to harder colleges.”

Although I knew I wouldn’t be happy that a UC, Ivy or 8 year program, I couldn’t help but feel like I had failed by not even trying. By equating myself to my classmates, I had made myself feel worthless.

My first rejection was from UCLA. Then George Washington. And then Johns Hopkins.

Nothing can prepare you for the amount of disappointment you’re going to feel within yourself when you get rejected from your dream schools. But that disappointment is short-lived and you have to look at the grander scheme of things.

So what I didn’t get into those schools. They just weren’t the ones that I was meant to be at. I could dream and wish that I could say I’m graduating from Johns Hopkins, but I know that my journey would not be right. There’s a reason why those schools weren’t part of my journey, and none of those reasons correlate to my worth.

One thing I’ve learned from rejection and failure over the years is that it is not a defining factor into who I am or who I am meant to be. Rejection hits hard at our insecurities and the most vulnerable parts of our egos, but rejection is a lesson and the turning point in so many people’s lives. Success is not defined by you reaching a goal or achieving something. If you continue to define success as such, you’ll continue to be disappointed and unfulfilled. I believe that it’s defined by growth and how much you can learn from a situation. After all, if I ever do get into medical school, I’ll get through due to my own hardwork and dedication and not because my degree comes from a big name college.

Out of 10 schools I had applied to, I had gotten into 7 and my favorite school, The University of San Diego had offered me multiple scholarships and enrollment into the honors program. It wasn’t the Ivy league that all of my friends were drooling over, but they weren’t the ones going to that college, I was. And USD was ultimately the school that appealed to everything I was looking for, I was just getting caught up in the comparison game that we all play in high school. If I continued to compare myself to my classmates, I wouldn’t have gone to a school I truly wanted to be at and I would spend my life continuing to question why I wasn’t good enough. Yet when you compare yourself to others, it’s never about being good enough, but rather, not being as good as them.

You are your own person and your journey and college experience is one that is personal to you. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else. And when adversity comes knocking, face it and learn from it. Rejection stings and it hurts and it shakes you up inside. But it isn’t the end. You will end up at the college that you’re meant to be.