Put on the wait list, my hopes stalled — then soared

After being on the wait list, I never thought I'd get to attend cherubs.

After being placed on the program wait list, Haley Weller said she never thought she would get to attend cherubs. Photo by Paige Fishman.

I remember calling home to my sister from school every day for two weeks in late April, around the time our mail was supposed to be delivered. I remember the jolt of adrenaline I got when she told me there was a white envelope with “Medill” printed in purple on it addressed to me. And I remember the feeling of complete and utter defeat when my sister told me I had been placed on the wait list.

I typically found comfort in my writing — regardless of who my audience was. I had spent the last year quickly rising through the ranks of my school newspaper, slowly building my writing portfolio so when the time came to apply, I’d have something to submit that was worthy of reading. But somehow in a matter of sentences, I felt robbed of the thing I loved doing most.

“I can’t be too optimistic about your chances for eventual acceptance into the program,” Roger Boye, director of the program, wrote in the letter. “We anticipate that we’ll have just one or two more openings, and we have more than 20 students on the wait list.”

I spent nearly three weeks in the dark, unsure of my placement on the list. My confidence was lost, and I was beginning to doubt pursuing journalism as a career. I went through phases when I was hopeful, only to remember that letter.

On April 17, I was leaving SAT class when I noticed I had a missed call from an Illinois number, along with an unread email. The subject line alone was enough to push me to the verge of tears.

I will never be able to find the right words to describe my reaction to reading the word “Congratulations.” I’ve never been a stellar athlete or class president, or president of anything for that matter, and the only audience I’ve ever sung for are the bottles of shampoo in my shower. But my experience at cherubs made me feel as if I was finally in the spotlight for something I seemed to be good at: journalism.