Jen Wand's Story
To look at my life now, you'd never guess what was in my past. I graduated
from Boston University with a grade point average of 3.8, lived in Japan
for a year, and am now working with a public relations firm in the Nation's
capital. But the truth is, I nearly didn't graduate from high school.
I was one of the smart kids. I attended high school in a Boston suburb
known for its high SAT scores and college acceptance rates—and in
that school, I was one of two students who scored high enough on the standardized
tests to be named a National Merit Scholar. But things got rocky my junior
year. I started skipping assignments, and my concentration was breaking
down. School became a place of terror for me—where I was afraid to
be seen, afraid to speak. Classmates and teachers alike frightened me.
During my senior year, I became unable to function. Major depressive disorder
shut me down. I couldn't maintain my composure in classes, do my homework,
or, eventually, even go to school on a regular basis. It's thanks to a
certain guidance counselor that I graduated at all. He waived my missing
PE credits and arranged for me to make up my missing English credits by
meeting one-on-one with my English teacher twice weekly. Unfortunately,
that teacher was not as understanding. He didn't understand why I couldn't
just "bite the bullet" and write a paper for him on his schedule.
But my guidance counselor didn't give up on me. He told me that if we
could find an alternative way to get me enough English credits, it would
be worth it—that I was worth it. He arranged for me to participate
in an externship with a local magazine. I went there for only four hours
a week, but the school accepted it as an English credit, and I was able
It took me 2 more years before I was ready to go to college. The few schools
I'd managed to apply to during my illness were not very receptive to my
unorthodox senior-year schedule and very few accepted me. But at that point
in my life, I wouldn't have been able to succeed in college anyway. For
the next 2 years, I worked part-time and went to therapy twice a week,
slowly building up all the foundations I needed to live again.
When I finally felt ready to reapply to colleges, the National Merit Foundation
informed me that the scholarship I was supposed to receive had "expired."
I was very disappointed that my academic achievements were not as important
as following someone else's expected plan for life. Would they have withheld
the scholarship, I wondered, for a young person who had been kept from
school by a more "high-profile" condition"
But my achievements in college were well worth the pains it took to get
there. Thanks to the supportive people at my high school and the university
that gave me a second chance, I had four wonderful years and was elected
to the Golden Key and Phi Beta Kappa honor societies. I was president of
a student organization and became fluent in Japanese—I even spent
a year in Japan after my college graduation. And best of all, I am now
a young woman who is extremely happy with her life.