One year ago, on Ivy Day 2022, I went to my parents’ bedroom so my mom could record me reacting to my Princeton admissions decision.
Unlike the typical decision videos where high school seniors scream and cry tears of joy if they get accepted, I did neither. Instead, all I could do was stare at my laptop in shock as I read the words: “Congratulations! On behalf of my colleagues, I am thrilled to offer you admission to Princeton’s Class of 2026!” Now, my Princeton decision video loops in my mind rent-free.
I was rejected from three selective universities the week before, so I began believing I was not unique enough to thrive at Princeton. My acceptance, nonetheless, was the product of achieving my once-impossible dream — or what I nickname a “rainbow connection.” This phrase comes from the song “The Rainbow Connection,” which is sung at the beginning of “The Muppet Movie” by Kermit the Frog. More importantly, it was also the topic of my college essay.
I know — it’s weird to say a song sung by a frog got me here. But believe me, I am not exaggerating when I say “The Rainbow Connection” changed my life in fifth grade.
At the time, I was attending my fourth elementary school in my hometown of North Brunswick, N.J. Before revealing my extroverted nature, I liked to quietly observe my classmates and teachers to understand the classroom culture. This was often misunderstood as shyness. Consequently, I overcompensated by laughing uncontrollably at two boys in my class, which landed me in a lot of trouble. My teachers believed I was destined to be a problem child in middle school. After all, no teacher wants to teach an easily-distracted student.
Yet when I found a YouTube video of Kermit, Miss Piggy, and Walter singing “The Rainbow Connection” live on Good Morning America, it sounded like Kermit saw me for who I was: an eleven-year-old lover and dreamer, determined to stand out amongst her peers. Listening to this song every day has helped me at various points in my life, such as surviving physics class and overcoming depression. Now that I am a rising sophomore, I believe the song is a metaphor for the people who believe in you.
Take Kermit, for example. He sings “The Rainbow Connection” to show his true calling is acting and embarks on a trip to Hollywood. At one point in the film, Fozzie Bear’s station wagon, which Kermit drives, breaks along the way, leaving Kermit and the other Muppets stranded in the middle of a desert. The other Muppets could have left Kermit to fend for himself. They, as aspiring entertainers too, felt frustrated that their trip did not go according to plan. Kermit’s dreams were also time-sensitive. If he did not arrive in Hollywood on time, the talent agent would have assumed that Kermit was not worth giving a chance to. However, the other Muppets choose to stay by his side because they trusted his ability to solve problems. Success, of course, does not usually happen overnight. Kermit and the other Muppets had to keep showing ambition and working hard. Without having a strong support system, Kermit may not have bounced back from the setback.
I had, and still have, a support system of lovely humans who have guided and uplifted me during life’s joys and challenges. Of course, my parents were my first teachers. They taught me to always have an unquenchable thirst for knowledge, in and out of the classroom. There are also my old friends who read my college essay, both unsurprised by my topic choice and determined to make sure I adhered to the Common Application’s 650-word limit. But 650 words are not enough to express the gratitude I have for the students at my high school, who were just like the Muppets: they were always there for me, even in tough times.
I went to an all-girls, Catholic high school in Jersey City, where I became my true, authentic self. I felt called to advocate for my peers — especially the small Black community at my high school, which did not have many role models who looked like them to help them succeed. This inspired me to strive for many leadership positions relating to racial justice advocacy and creative writing. However, my journey toward success did not come without feeling that my efforts were meaningless.
Sometimes, I felt like I was the spokesperson for my entire race, writing my reflections about racial justice issues into the void with nobody to resonate with them. Or maybe it was the opposite: I was being too outspoken for students who did not look like me, and I worried my Gmail would overflow with repeated messages that basically emanated “calm down and shut up” energy (thank goodness this never happened to me).
Little did I know that, like Kermit, I also needed patience while measuring the impact of my leadership on others. Even if they didn’t immediately understand my leadership, I felt that I eventually inspired all of us to believe in ourselves and each other across different races. As their authentic selves, my peers achieved their once-impossible rainbow connections: starting new clubs, playing Division I sports — you name it. They’ve continued to find their “rainbow connections.” Had I not attended my high school, I would not have had the same support system pushing me to be a better version of myself. Perhaps, I would have stayed stuck in the mindset of “not being unique” to thrive at Princeton — let alone be brave enough to write about Kermit the Frog in my college essay.
In retrospect of my acceptance on Ivy Day, I showed myself that this rainbow connection is indeed possible to achieve. Now, when a junior or senior at my high school asks how they can get into Princeton, I don’t rattle off my statistics or extracurricular activities. I tell them to be their authentic selves as they write their college essay. Who knows? “Someday [they’ll] find it, the rainbow connection” at Princeton, with their decision videos looping in their minds rent-free. Hopefully, they scream and cry tears of joy if they get accepted.
Avery Danae Williams is a staff writer for The Prospect at the ‘Prince’ and a prospective African American Studies major, with certificates in Creative Writing (Poetry) and Gender & Sexuality Studies. She can be reached at aw4174[at]princeton.edu or on Instagram @averydanaewrites.
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