The Mistake that Became a Godsend

Choosing a college

Margie Hord de Mendez
5 min readAug 31


Photo by sean Kong on Unsplash

I blew it. I was a New England boarding school senior, just 16, and everyone was applying to several colleges. I only applied to one, Middlebury College, because it was renowned for languages and I thought I could study a Spanish major. During my interview there, they asked me a question that floored me: “Do you like skiing?” What? No way, I’d never skied in my life. Of course, they thought I might be one of those kids whose main interest was the ski slopes of Vermont.

Great, so they knew I was serious about language and not ski fun. Of course I’d be accepted! Nope. Months later, I tore open “the letter” only to learn that the answer was no.

Shock. Confusion. All of a sudden, I realized I was so confident that I hadn’t applied to any other schools, and it was too late to be considered elsewhere. Surrounded by preppies who were often getting into more than one college, even Ivy League, I was adrift. What next?

Looking back, I can hardly regret my mistake. I was younger than others, and the extra time gave me perspective and time to grow up.

Don’t we all find that what seems to be a mistake can end up being quite the opposite?

For a semester, I moved to the flat expanse of Iowa to live with an aunt and uncle and sit in on some courses at the university (Iowa State,) where “Aggies” were big. It was a time of discovery amid miniskirts, flower power, and Vietnam demonstrations. Not even being American, I spent a chilly, drizzly fall night on the steps of the student union, where we took turns reading the names of men who had died in the war. Our voices echoed in the emptiness. We felt empowered, indignant, righteous.

My peers will understand, but you younger ones will, too. You’ve wanted to change the world; you seek causes. You are drawn into the flow of indignation or concern and become wannabe saviors, no matter whether it seems highly unlikely.



Margie Hord de Mendez

Canadian-Mexican linguist and translator, Margie loves to write about cross-cultural living, faith, family, aging gracefully… and more!