Our household can certainly relate to the article in last Monday’s Press Democrat about how high school seniors are lowering their expectations about where they go to college because competition has gotten so tough. After receiving another rejection letter from one of his top pick schools, a Healdsburg High senior is quoted as saying, “It’s been a horrible week.”

I think those were the very words our daughter said when she got the letter from USC that said that she wasn’t going to receive the Trustee Scholarship that she had interviewed for. Not only wasn’t she going to get the big bucks, the amount they were going to give her would barely cover the parking fees. And without receiving a major award, she knew that she wouldn’t be going to USC.

To say that Valerie was disappointed over the news would be a huge understatement; she had gotten her heart set on going to USC. When she and Steve visited the campus for her interview, the school put on an exceptional show to woo the prospective students. She stayed overnight in the dorms with a girl from New York who Valerie thought was just the coolest person. To get everybody pumped up, the administration brought out the USC Marching Band to play “Tusk,” her tour guide said that celebrities frequent the campus…in fact Will Smith was just recently there…and because of the film school’s connection to Hollywood, students get to see movies even before they were released.

In other words, she left with stars in her eyes. But now her dreams had been crushed. At least that’s the way she felt last Monday night. We heard a lot of the same feelings from her that the students in the Press Democrat article expressed. “I worked so hard…what more could I have done.”

Welcome to some of life’s big lessons: even if you are the exceptionally qualified and hard working, there are factors that influence decisions that are outside of your control. There are no guarantees in life, no matter how hard you work or how deserving you are. And this won’t be the only time that you don’t get what you want. The important thing, is what you do with what you’ve been given.

Although it may take some time for Valerie to see it this way, Steve and I believe that Valerie not getting the USC scholarship is actually a gift. We were looking for clear direction about where she should go to school and this gave it to us. Going forward, she can either stay angry about it or embrace the fact that God has a different plan for her and appreciate what she has been given.

And in her case, she has a lot to be grateful for; her second choice college offered her enough money to make it possible for her to go there. Valerie has the opportunity to go away to an excellent school that Steve and I think will be a perfect fit for her.

Yes, it was a rough week but an important week.