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Mourning Offers That You Declined


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The decision was so close and I ended up turning down a pretty prestigious program so I felt sick about it this morning...even though it was surely the right choice for me. I feel better now (at the end of the day), partly thanks to all the kind folks who have reminded me of what a great decision it was and that the school I chose is still a top-20 program. But this morning, I felt like I had really screwed up maybe. I just wasn't ready to make a choice by April 15th but also wasn't getting any closer so an extension seemed useless. Did anyone else have a similar experience of feeling really uncertain or even bad about your decision at first?

Thanks for your responses, as always :-)

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That's the feeling I'm scared of! :( But congratulations for buckling down and making a choice. I'm still weighing my options to see what I could make happen regarding both of my potential schools, and waiting to see where the cards fall. They're starting to stack up on one side, but I'm glad I didn't have an April 15 (tax day, really?) deadline to contend with -- next week I'll begin to hear back about things! But I do want to finalize my choice soon, so someone else has the opportunity to try figuring out how to fund themselves at this expensive school....

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Being on 2.5 waitlists (2 actual, one accepted but on a first-year funding waitlist) until April 15 made the decision part especially difficult. I am very, very happy with where I'll be going in the fall - it had been a top choice for me from the beginning - but it meant that I had to turn down a program that I really LOVED. Worse, I had just found out that morning that I was getting that first-year funding at that program, and had been so elated and basically thought I was going there. When I got the call from Dream School a few hours later, it was obviously amazing and wonderful and all of that, but also really confusing. I had to make a choice in a few hours that a lot of people got months to make, and the up and down of emotions gave me vertigo. Ultimately, the program I chose is not only as good of a fit for me as program #1, but has a much stabler and less stressful financial support and program structure, as well as better placement rates. Still, I've gotten little pangs when looking at the courses I won't get to take at the first school, or the email from someone I had really wanted to work with saying they're disappointed I won't attending, or looking at the pictures from my visit. So I think that's normal; you have to "mourn" that whole future you had imagined. But the truth is that if I hadn't gotten into or decided to attend the program I am going to, I would have mourned that as well, and I think ultimately my life would have been a lot harder at that other program, which probably means I wouldn't be as happy as I will be at the program I'm going to. You just have to focus on what you're getting in exchange!

Edited by intextrovert
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Oh MAN thank you for posting this. The decision I made has been haunting me since the moment I made it.

I got into two distinct programs. One (USC) is an MFA in Studio Art, a strong program with a star-packed faculty and a lot of buzz. Their graduates typically get into really amazing exhibitions, galleries, museums and residencies very quickly after graduating. They gave me a ridiculously generous funding package and told me flat out that they loved my work and were eager to get me in the program. The school is close to my family, I already knew a lot of the professors through networking and visiting, and I like the campus and love the program. I feel close to the people there, and actually felt a strong emotional pull to that school from the beginning. It was a strong fit overall, and would have boded extremely well for a solid career as an exhibiting artist.

The second acceptance is for an MS in Visual Studies from MIT. A much stranger, harder-to-define program. They study not just art, but a mix of art, theory, design and architecture. Their graduates track MUCH differently after graduating: some go into private sector work, some write, some teach, and others exhibit. They tend to show in places that are not as hot, famous or glamorous as USC grads, but are more disparate and thoughtful, with a wider range of activities and venues. I felt their basic intellectual thrust (that of "creation of knowledge through art-making") fit very closely not just with my career as an artist, but my ideals as a person overall. They also gave me ridiculously good funding package (a fellowship including 100% tuition waiver plus a stipend), but the school is across the continent from everyone and everything i know. I've never been to the campus. Never even interviewed, and I don't know a single person. The acceptance and fellowship were a total shock.

It felt very much like I had to choose what kind of person I was going to be, which life I wanted to live.

I went with the latter.

Though I know now is the time to suck it up and throw myself full force into my choice, I can't help but feel .... not dissatisfied, but ... haunted. What could have been?

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...It felt very much like I had to choose what kind of person I was going to be, which life I wanted to live.

I went with the latter.

Though I know now is the time to suck it up and throw myself full force into my choice, I can't help but feel .... not dissatisfied, but ... haunted. What could have been?

That does sound like an incredibly tough choice, but I tend to say, "go for the adventure!" and that seems like what you did. USC sounds like a place that you would have been comfortable, that's very much in the vein of what you've already done or been doing. But MIT seems like it's going to challenge you and perhaps bring your work in new, exciting directions - which is ostensibly the goal, right, for you to develop as an artist? And it sounds like that program provides a lot of different avenues for you to develop, so that's just exciting, to see your future open up like that. The line, "I felt their basic intellectual thrust (that of "creation of knowledge through art-making") fit very closely not just with my career as an artist, but my ideals as a person overall" is what sells it to me: this is clearly the right choice for your career and professional life. And yes, money talks, and with more stable income you will be better able to concentrate on your work. I had/have to remind myself of that as well: it's not just for greed that the funding package should seriously factor into your decision - there are a lot of offshoots and benefits of a program that can fund its students well.

And plus, Boston is lovely! You'll make friends. Worry not. :)

Edited by intextrovert
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It felt very much like I had to choose what kind of person I was going to be, which life I wanted to live.

I went with the latter.

Though I know now is the time to suck it up and throw myself full force into my choice, I can't help but feel .... not dissatisfied, but ... haunted. What could have been?

Good for you! Sounds like you made a really interesting choice for yourself.

I have just made a similarly difficult choice, myself, between a very prestigious program that I know I'd love, and a riskier, but more exciting and innovative, program. Like you, it felt like choosing an identity, and like you, I went with the latter.

Also, Boston is FANTASTIC.

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Being on 2.5 waitlists (2 actual, one accepted but on a first-year funding waitlist) until April 15 made the decision part especially difficult. I am very, very happy with where I'll be going in the fall - it had been a top choice for me from the beginning - but it meant that I had to turn down a program that I really LOVED. Worse, I had just found out that morning that I was getting that first-year funding at that program, and had been so elated and basically thought I was going there. When I got the call from Dream School a few hours later, it was obviously amazing and wonderful and all of that, but also really confusing. I had to make a choice in a few hours that a lot of people got months to make, and the up and down of emotions gave me vertigo. Ultimately, the program I chose is not only as good of a fit for me as program #1, but has a much stabler and less stressful financial support and program structure, as well as better placement rates. Still, I've gotten little pangs when looking at the courses I won't get to take at the first school, or the email from someone I had really wanted to work with saying they're disappointed I won't attending, or looking at the pictures from my visit. So I think that's normal; you have to "mourn" that whole future you had imagined. But the truth is that if I hadn't gotten into or decided to attend the program I am going to, I would have mourned that as well, and I think ultimately my life would have been a lot harder at that other program, which probably means I wouldn't be as happy as I will be at the program I'm going to. You just have to focus on what you're getting in exchange!

Thanks, intextrovert. I am sure I will feel better about it once I start the program but you are right that it is that whole imagined future that I have to let go...

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Oh MAN thank you for posting this. The decision I made has been haunting me since the moment I made it.

I got into two distinct programs. One (USC) is an MFA in Studio Art, a strong program with a star-packed faculty and a lot of buzz. Their graduates typically get into really amazing exhibitions, galleries, museums and residencies very quickly after graduating. They gave me a ridiculously generous funding package and told me flat out that they loved my work and were eager to get me in the program. The school is close to my family, I already knew a lot of the professors through networking and visiting, and I like the campus and love the program. I feel close to the people there, and actually felt a strong emotional pull to that school from the beginning. It was a strong fit overall, and would have boded extremely well for a solid career as an exhibiting artist.

The second acceptance is for an MS in Visual Studies from MIT. A much stranger, harder-to-define program. They study not just art, but a mix of art, theory, design and architecture. Their graduates track MUCH differently after graduating: some go into private sector work, some write, some teach, and others exhibit. They tend to show in places that are not as hot, famous or glamorous as USC grads, but are more disparate and thoughtful, with a wider range of activities and venues. I felt their basic intellectual thrust (that of "creation of knowledge through art-making") fit very closely not just with my career as an artist, but my ideals as a person overall. They also gave me ridiculously good funding package (a fellowship including 100% tuition waiver plus a stipend), but the school is across the continent from everyone and everything i know. I've never been to the campus. Never even interviewed, and I don't know a single person. The acceptance and fellowship were a total shock.

It felt very much like I had to choose what kind of person I was going to be, which life I wanted to live.

I went with the latter.

Though I know now is the time to suck it up and throw myself full force into my choice, I can't help but feel .... not dissatisfied, but ... haunted. What could have been?

Both were great options, grad_wannabe! It was definitely one of those situations where you couldn't go wrong either way. I was similarly frustrated though at having to make a decision with limited actual experience at the schools where, in my case, I will spend 5-6 years of my life. I think you made a fine choice, by the way! You will probably be able to make a lot of great contacts in Cambridge!

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So glad to see others feel this way! I was very fortunate and was deciding between 2 top 20 schools in my field. Cornell was my favorite going into the process because of the program structure, location, reputation etc., and when I got in I assumed it would be no contest. I went to the Visitation Weekend and was happily surprised that I also felt a great connection with the people! I really felt like I belonged with the other grad students, and I liked the overall feel of the department. I was convinced that I was going, and told myself I was only doing the visit to my second choice since they had already paid for my flight and hotel.

So the next weekend I visited UNC Chapel Hill, my second choice. And I was AMAZED by the caliber of research they had going on there. There were more professors I was interested in (5 compared to 3 at Cornell) and they had brand spanking new facilities ( a big deal with chemistry ). Plus I felt like I personally connected with a couple of the faculty members, and would really enjoy working with them in addition to liking their research. But, I didn't get the same connection to the grad students and the rest of the people in the dept.

I came home all confused. Do I go for the overall "fit" or where the research opportunities were amazing? A PhD is mostly about research, so I kept wondering if I would be making a big mistake if I went for the fit. And distance was a factor too. My family is in NY, so I would be about 3-3.5 hours away at Cornell, versus an 11 hour drive to UNC. Plus there are no direct flights, and the flights with stop-overs were still pricey. And Cornell was offering a significantly better funding package.

So, in the end, I wound up going with Cornell, because it just felt "right." I got REALLY sad when I had to write to tell UNC I wasn't coming. I sent personal letters to the faculty I liked, and one of them sent a reply saying he was really sorry that I wasn't coming, and it just broke my heart. But overall, I think I made the right choice. I want to enjoy graduate school as much as I can, and I think the people and fit are crucial. Plus, being close enough to go home for a weekend if I need to is important to me too.

I'm starting to feel better about it, I got my Cornell email address yesterday! (I accepted their offer about a month ago) This is a very emotional process though!

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I am so glad that somebody brought this up!! It feels good to see that I am not the only one! Now listen to my story, I was to choose between two different fields which made the desicion too hard for me, first choice was clinical psychology Ph.D. with 15K a year in a decent but not so prestigious school (#116 in rankings), location was suburban and not exactly where I want to live either. Second choice was a Ph.D. in Neuroscience in a really prestigious school (#20 in rankings), although they are doing something totally different from what I did until know and what I have always planned to do in the future, and the money was better (28K a year) location was better (urban& where I live right now).The decision was hard for me because I want to work with humans, although I like neuroscience and find it really interesting, I was not sure I want to study in a molecular level using animal models.

And then after lots of thinking, I decided on school#2 which is prestigious and would provide me with much better opportunities in academia afterwards, however after I made the decision, that day that I called the other school and said that I was not coming, I felt soooo bad, almost like sick. I felt that down feeling all day, mourning just as you say, it is like having an abortion and mourning on the baby and imagining what he/she would be like if he/she was born. Because as somebody here said before, you are not only choosing the school but you are also choosing what kind of a person you are going to be, what your future is going to be like etc.

Then the next day, I saw this email from the other professor in the school I declined, saying that "I just wanted to confirm your decision once again before I contact anybody else"

Oh god! After I got that email, with that kind of emotional situation, I immadiately called the professor back and told him that I am not sure of the decision and I really felt bad afterwards etc, and he said he would like to give me couple more days to think.

And then what happened, my decision did not change!! When I think rationally, the school 2 makes more sense in many dimensions! It is an opportunity that I at least would like to try! So again the monday of April 15 week, I called the professor in school 1 and told him my decision is the same. But I really had an emotional crisis in between as I said before.

And again I am so glad that someone brought this up, because after I felt that sad after my decision, I was feeling guilty sometimes with questions like "did I make a decision against my gut feeling, do these emotions try to tell me something about which decision would be better for me?" But after reading all these posts and talking to couple of friends, I am almost surethat the same "mourning" would happen even if I went with the other school. This time I would felt like "did I make the mistake of my life, turning down a great opportunity?"

So anyways, I think there are times in life that you should make a decision and dont look back afterwards, becuase sometimes you can't just know which one is going to be better for you, you have to just choose a way, and see how it works for you. And in the end I listened to my mind, and I think decisions with mind are much more reliable than decisions with emotions sometimes, especially with decisions of professional life, like this. And now, I feel good about my decision and I feel that I am going to be successful, well hopefully it is true, anyways, best wishes to everybody!

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I've totally been having "what if?" thoughts since I made my decision. I accepted a school ranked #28 over a school that currently ties for #1 in USNews (CMU) because I preferred my potential advisors and the small-department environment at JHU.

Some days I wake up full of regret. Did I make a mistake? Part of it is probably just an ego thing, since my other option would carry more prestige. But there are other concerns that I think are valid - CMU generally has stronger students and more faculty, and would be a better choice if my research interests were ever to drift into a different subfield. I didn't used to think my interests would change too significantly, but now I'm starting to have that concern.

But other days I wake up excited to begin my new life. I have to remind myself that I spent a long time making this decision - I considered every possible factor, I spent a lot of time talking to faculty on the phone at both places, etc. I'm sure I made the best choice, and there is a lot of mutual enthusiasm about me joining the program. It's just that it was such a close decision, I'll probably never feel completely "satisfied" with my choice, if that makes sense.

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Oh MAN thank you for posting this. The decision I made has been haunting me since the moment I made it.

I got into two distinct programs. One (USC) is an MFA in Studio Art, a strong program with a star-packed faculty and a lot of buzz. Their graduates typically get into really amazing exhibitions, galleries, museums and residencies very quickly after graduating. They gave me a ridiculously generous funding package and told me flat out that they loved my work and were eager to get me in the program. The school is close to my family, I already knew a lot of the professors through networking and visiting, and I like the campus and love the program. I feel close to the people there, and actually felt a strong emotional pull to that school from the beginning. It was a strong fit overall, and would have boded extremely well for a solid career as an exhibiting artist.

The second acceptance is for an MS in Visual Studies from MIT. A much stranger, harder-to-define program. They study not just art, but a mix of art, theory, design and architecture. Their graduates track MUCH differently after graduating: some go into private sector work, some write, some teach, and others exhibit. They tend to show in places that are not as hot, famous or glamorous as USC grads, but are more disparate and thoughtful, with a wider range of activities and venues. I felt their basic intellectual thrust (that of "creation of knowledge through art-making") fit very closely not just with my career as an artist, but my ideals as a person overall. They also gave me ridiculously good funding package (a fellowship including 100% tuition waiver plus a stipend), but the school is across the continent from everyone and everything i know. I've never been to the campus. Never even interviewed, and I don't know a single person. The acceptance and fellowship were a total shock.

It felt very much like I had to choose what kind of person I was going to be, which life I wanted to live.

I went with the latter.

Though I know now is the time to suck it up and throw myself full force into my choice, I can't help but feel .... not dissatisfied, but ... haunted. What could have been?

Hey first of all I just want to say I think you've made an amazing decision..congratulations and good luck!

Secondly though you might feel a little anxious now, when your course actually commences, and things start falling into place you'll feel a whole lot better about your decision to the extent that you'll wonder what you would have ever done had you not taken it up - it always happens that way, because all things ultimately work out for the best.

I've taken a lot of decisions following my heart and my instinct too, and they have never failed me. You're going to have such a blast in MIT :)

Edited by kinjal
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I love this thread. I'm glad I'm not the only one out there.

For me, I had my heart set upon School #1, which was very prestigious and also worked best for my personal life. I had decided long ago that since I loved School #1, and it was one of the best schools I could hope to go to, I wouldn't have to feel conflicted about letting my personal life play a big role in my decision. Besides, I don't want to be one-dimensional. I never want to be completely defined only by my work; I'm striving for the best education I can get while still maintaining balance in my life.

Of course, I applied to a bunch of other schools too (probably too many, really), and while I was waiting to hear about funding from School #1, other offers were flowing in. Two such offers were from School #2 and School #3. I was stunned; These were two of those schools that you just aren't supposed to say NO to. I visited them both and had terrible experiences. Every student I met in my departments seemed miserable, and whenever I would ask what they liked about the schools, they would just start rattling off stats about the prestige of the university and its faculty. I left really torn because I felt like I was supposed to be in love with those universities, but I was far from it.

Then I got an amazing offer from School #4. This university was really really good, but not super awesome, but I was accepted into a really prestigious program there and was offered a fellowship that I was sure nobody else would be able to come close to matching, both in monetary value and in prestige. I visited and clicked with the faculty and the students and loved the campus and area, but it was horribly inconvenient for my personal life. After agonizing about the idea of turning down offers from superstar universities, School #2 and School #3, I decided that School #4 would be my second choice.

By April, I still hadn't heard about funding from School #1, but I had managed to get myself excited about going to School #4. Then of course, just days before the deadline (I was still agonizing pretty hard), I get a very competitive funding offer from School #1. I immediately accepted it.

Am I lucky to have had those options? Oh definitely yes! But it's tearing me apart now. I didn't expect to A) get really excited about a different program, or B) get accepted with full funding into School #2 and School #3. Now my decision to go for balance seems wrong. I hated turning down School #2 and School #3 because I felt that deep down, I was disappointing my undergraduate advisors and my parents. I hated turning down School #4 because I truly did love their program. Now, don't get me wrong; School #1 is a top 10, freaking amazing school in an area that is perfect for multiple aspects of my life, but I keep questioning my decision to go there. I'm sure that once I move up there and get started, those fears will go away, but for now I can't get over this feeling that I've disappointed everybody by choosing to go there.

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I love this thread. I'm glad I'm not the only one out there.

Now, don't get me wrong; School #1 is a top 10, freaking amazing school in an area that is perfect for multiple aspects of my life, but I keep questioning my decision to go there. I'm sure that once I move up there and get started, those fears will go away, but for now I can't get over this feeling that I've disappointed everybody by choosing to go there.

I know EXACTLY what you mean. I had multiple people tell me I was an idiot for making the choice I did. One friend of mine even sat me down for an entire afternoon and lectured me on why I should choose School #1, he said to go anywhere else would be "insane." Another guy I knew from school actually called me just to say, "You got into School #1 and you're not going? Wow, you're stupid."

I feel kind of silly saying this, but I saw Alice in Wonderland a couple days ago and one part struck a chord with me: all these people are telling Alice she needs to slay the Jabberwocky. Everyone's got an opinion and thinks they know better than her what she should do. Then the Queen told her, "Make sure you're making this choice for YOU and not anyone else, because although everyone's got an opinion on it now, if you go up there with that sword, you go alone."

So, forget what everyone else is telling you - you alone will hold that sword, so you alone make the choice.

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There should not have been an emoticon in my last post. Apparently this thing automatically changes the combination of "B" and ")", as in the list item after A), into a B)

* laughs * I've had that happen too!

I know EXACTLY what you mean. I had multiple people tell me I was an idiot for making the choice I did. One friend of mine even sat me down for an entire afternoon and lectured me on why I should choose School #1, he said to go anywhere else would be "insane." Another guy I knew from school actually called me just to say, "You got into School #1 and you're not going? Wow, you're stupid."

I feel kind of silly saying this, but I saw Alice in Wonderland a couple days ago and one part struck a chord with me: all these people are telling Alice she needs to slay the Jabberwocky. Everyone's got an opinion and thinks they know better than her what she should do. Then the Queen told her, "Make sure you're making this choice for YOU and not anyone else, because although everyone's got an opinion on it now, if you go up there with that sword, you go alone."

So, forget what everyone else is telling you - you alone will hold that sword, so you alone make the choice.

Agreed.

No one can choose more than one grad-school. Anyone contending with a tough decision is to be applauded for making a selection at all! Furthermore, the decision is not irreversible: even if it doesn't work out, there's always next year's application-season!

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I'm so glad someone posted about this! I applied to a grand total of 2 schools and was accepted at both, and have received aid at both but while the first school, Columbia, offered me what amount to tuition, USC has offered me a fellowship that will take care of all costs ( i think). But I was so keen to go to New York that I'm suffering major pangs having accepted USC's offer now... not to mention that Columbia's program is like, ranked number one and USC, while a really great school, is probably top 10 at best.

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I know EXACTLY what you mean. I had multiple people tell me I was an idiot for making the choice I did. One friend of mine even sat me down for an entire afternoon and lectured me on why I should choose School #1, he said to go anywhere else would be "insane." Another guy I knew from school actually called me just to say, "You got into School #1 and you're not going? Wow, you're stupid."

I feel kind of silly saying this, but I saw Alice in Wonderland a couple days ago and one part struck a chord with me: all these people are telling Alice she needs to slay the Jabberwocky. Everyone's got an opinion and thinks they know better than her what she should do. Then the Queen told her, "Make sure you're making this choice for YOU and not anyone else, because although everyone's got an opinion on it now, if you go up there with that sword, you go alone."

So, forget what everyone else is telling you - you alone will hold that sword, so you alone make the choice.

Nice analogy. I think the reason why I am mourning the other offer is that in retrospect I believe I have let myself be influenced by others too much. I chose the school with more prestige over the one that I felt more excited about. What I'm feeling is a mixture of mourning and guilt, because I blame myself for not having been able to "stand my man" and stick to my initial determination. I thought I would be able to easily reject an offer from the more prestigious school and go with my gut feeling, but it turns out I was not resilient enough against the temptations from the "dark side." In that respect, I applaud your decision and determination and wish I had been as bold as you.

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I feel kind of silly saying this, but I saw Alice in Wonderland a couple days ago and one part struck a chord with me: all these people are telling Alice she needs to slay the Jabberwocky. Everyone's got an opinion and thinks they know better than her what she should do. Then the Queen told her, "Make sure you're making this choice for YOU and not anyone else, because although everyone's got an opinion on it now, if you go up there with that sword, you go alone."

So, forget what everyone else is telling you - you alone will hold that sword, so you alone make the choice.

Don't feel silly. Wow, this is great stuff! I should print this and frame it. :D I love it when people tell stories to make their points.

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Nice analogy. I think the reason why I am mourning the other offer is that in retrospect I believe I have let myself be influenced by others too much. I chose the school with more prestige over the one that I felt more excited about. What I'm feeling is a mixture of mourning and guilt, because I blame myself for not having been able to "stand my man" and stick to my initial determination. I thought I would be able to easily reject an offer from the more prestigious school and go with my gut feeling, but it turns out I was not resilient enough against the temptations from the "dark side." In that respect, I applaud your decision and determination and wish I had been as bold as you.

This was exactly me. Now looking back, I basically asked nearly everyone I know for their opinion, and that's where my regret/guilt/whatever it is called came from. I had the gut to aim high when I applied, but I didn't have the gut to stand up for what my inner self was telling me. Hm, it's not the end of the world anyway. Maybe we will be praised for stepping out of our comfort zone...

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