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Getting rejected from your first-choice college can really knock you off your feet. But for Michael Avila, hearing “thanks, but no thanks” from his top choice school turned out to be one of the best things that ever happened to him. It not only led him to the right college but also guided him toward a career he’d never considered, but now loves.

My first-choice college was North Carolina State in Raleigh. I’d wanted to go there since my sophomore year of high school. Not only was it close to my hometown, which was appealing to me, but it also had one of the top professional golf management programs (PGM) in the area. I was set on majoring in PGM. So when I received my rejection letter, I was devastated. It was disheartening to find out I couldn’t attend the school that gave me the best chance at my dream career.

I’m glad I didn’t get into my first-choice school. Getting rejected was a great thing for me professionally and socially.

Adding to my disappointment, I got wait-listed at two other schools that interested me and was only admitted to my safety school: East Carolina University (ECU). I was reluctant about enrolling there, but I did. When I got to ECU’s campus, I thought about North Carolina State a lot and considered transferring. However, that changed as I began to meet people and make friends at ECU.

The people at ECU were so welcoming. Everyone in my dorm, from my RA to my neighbor, took me in. They invited me to study sessions, parties, dinner—you name it. They were some of the nicest people I’ve ever met, and I owe a lot to them for helping me enjoy my freshman year, even when I came in set on transferring.

Academically, ECU turned out to be a good fit for me too. In particular, there was a news-writing course that was pivotal for me. The professor made writing fun and presented it as a real career option. When he posted one of my stories on a site that showcased quality student work, I was so proud. It gave me a lot of confidence in my abilities as a writer, and I eventually selected communications as my major with a focus in public relations. Ultimately, this led to my career as a freelance copywriter.

I have absolutely no regrets about not going to North Carolina State. Looking back, I wasn’t as good at golf as I needed to be to make a career of it, and ECU showed me a different path that was a better fit for me. My ECU education shaped me into the professional writer that I am, and I developed a great community in the process. I consider myself pretty fortunate. In fact, I’m glad I didn’t get into my first-choice school. Getting rejected was a great thing for me professionally and socially.

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