Once upon a time, there was a girl named Phebe, who had no idea where she was going to attend college…
Junior year is the year that everyone starts asking you, “So where are you looking to go to college?” It’s the age-old, dreaded question that every 16- and 17- year old hates. After several instances of launching into a twenty minute explanation about my pros and cons for each school I was considering, I invented a 30 second answer to appease any well-intending askers. And when people would insert their own opinions, I learned to not pay too much attention in order to avoid large amounts of stress.
2013 was the year of official college tours. In the summer, I started touring in-state schools with my dad. On a hot August day, we visited the College of William & Mary. I originally wasn’t even considering the school, but because it was in Williamsburg and only two hours away, I figured “why not?” One visit was all it took – I was in love. Something was different about this school. The difference was confirmed even more when I started receiving promotional material in the mail. By this point, I already had a growing stack of college interest materials. And, by this point, everything a college sent me was starting to sound the same. You have potential, we can foster that potential, we have great faculty, we have even better stats, you’ll like it here… I’m not saying these aren’t good strategies or good schools – I considered many of them and applied to three. But William & Mary’s promotional packets were different. Their ampersandbox highlights life at William & Mary with a simple design that emphasizes the correlation between two words. The way they use their words is incredibly creative (and if you know me well, you know I love words). So within a few short weeks, William & Mary had gone from a non-contender to a top contender.
But this post isn’t to tell you all the things I like about William & Mary; rather, I want to share God’s incredible, surprising, and overwhelming faithfulness with you. During the fall, I began applying to colleges. I completed my applications for Cedarville University and Patrick Henry College. Then it was onto state schools. I had a dilemma. It was the same dilemma I had been mulling over for the past year. Do I go to a Christian school that will develop my faith? Or do I step outside my comfort zone to go to a secular school that will challenge my faith? William & Mary was by far my favorite school in terms of clubs, atmosphere, student body, faculty-student ratio, etc. But they are a secular, worldly school. I didn’t think I’d have to make this decision so soon. However, William & Mary’s early application option is Early Decision, which is binding if you are accepted. I’d have a better chance of getting in if I applied early, but was I ready to sell myself on one school? I prayed A LOT. I talked to my parents, friends, mentors, and small group A LOT. One day, when I was supposed to be working on school but couldn’t focus, I stumbled upon this article. The president of William & Mary’s Intervarsity Fellowship posed the question, “Can my faith in Jesus survive a secular university like W&M?” and proceeded to answer “yes”. I felt a peace that I had never felt before about college. I called my mom up to my room to read the article. That evening I announced that I was ready to apply Early Decision. God clearly showed me His faithfulness by leading me to that article and giving me great peace.
There was one small problem though. My interview was scheduled for after the Early Decision deadline. Interviews aren’t required, but both my parents and I felt that an interview would enhance my overall application. By the time I made my decision, it was mid-October, and all of the interview spots before that November 1 deadline had been filled. So I proceeded to put myself on the waiting list for 10+ interviews. This was on a Friday morning (I had come to my ED conclusion on Wednesday). That afternoon my mom and I were planning to go shopping before dance, but because of some words I spoke in a moment of irritation, my mom said we weren’t going anymore (in case you haven’t gathered this by now, I’m not perfect). 5 minutes before I left for dance – no joke – I received a phone call from William & Mary’s Dean of Admissions, Wendy Livingston. A spot had opened up on one of the waiting lists, and she wanted to call me right away. If my mom and I had been shopping, I would have missed the call. Funny how God works everything out for good 🙂 Of course, I said yes. Two weeks later, I was headed down to Williamsburg for my interview. The interview also posed the opportunity for me to hand in a recommendation letter that my recommender was having difficulties uploading, and it provided the ability to meet with a current student from my church. Once again, God had worked each tiny detail out!
Fast forward a month – – I return home from Africa. It was a good thing I had been doing missions work, because otherwise I probably would have barely survived the agony of waiting for my admissions decision. Although many of my friends had assured me that I would get in, I never believed any of them. I had made up my mind that I would expect to be rejected or deferred, but would be pleasantly surprised if I was accepted.
Friday night, December 6. I returned home from dance at 10:30pm. I got an ice cream sandwich and then a bowl of dark chocolate peppermint ice cream (in my defense, I had just finished an intense workout and was still recovering from a no sugar diet in Liberia). I sat down to watch the rest of The Hobbit with my parents and brother. Around 11:30, I finally made my way upstairs. I wasn’t planning on checking my email, but I got a text from my dear friend Ellie telling me that it was finally time to check my email (Ellie was also dying in the suspense of waiting to hear back). So I did. I saw the email subject line from William & Mary: “Good Things”. For some reason, my dad had come upstairs and was standing in the doorway, staring at me. I figured he was just being awkward. I read the email quickly, then slower, not sure what I was really reading. I followed the hyperlink, but it didn’t hit me until I saw “Class of 2018”. I looked up at my dad, still standing in the doorway staring, and I started crying. I don’t think I’ve ever cried so hard because of sheer shock and joy. Just that night at dance, I had assured my friend Karis that I was not getting in. My dad called my mom upstairs, and my brother came running up the stairs, asking what had happened. He asked me, “Is it good news or bad news?” All I could muster out was “good”. Apparently, both of my parents had seen the email before they forwarded it to me. Their reactions? My mom jumped around the house and my dad cried.
I didn’t truly believe that I had actually been accepted to William & Mary until I received the official letter in the mail. Even still, I have moments where I think, “Really? Is this a dream? They want me?” I have no idea why I am going to William & Mary next year, while so many others who applied are not or are still waiting. All I know, is that I serve a BIG God. He has plans even greater than I could ever dream or hope to imagine. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9) God has been so faithful to me. He has shown Himself in all the little details of this process. And that is why I cried when I read William & Mary’s decision and that’s why I couldn’t sleep that night. God’s faithfulness overwhelmed me and His love showered me, and the cry of my heart is, “Praise Him. I serve an AWEsome God.”
– – Phebe