Acceptance/Rejection: How to Make Sense of it all (and not take it too personally)
It is that magical time of year (for some,) the time of college application completion, and for a select few, the arrival of Early Acceptance letters. There has never been a time (historically) in which more people were involved in a single applicant’s road to higher education. While there is still an absurd inequality in K-12 and higher education opportunities in this country, there are few middle class teenagers who are left to navigate the road to baccalaureate success alone. We will not argue the merits of this phenomenon in and of itself, but acknowledge that having an audience alters the experience somewhat.
So (with the whole world watching) how does the average 17 year-old both process what it means to be “accepted” and “rejected” but also determine what next steps are best for them?
For some, the decision is a clear cut monetary one. Which college offers the best financial package (through tuition, grant, scholarship, three-year options, work-study, etc.) For some, the decision has been made for them by receiving only one acceptance letter (you’d be surprised how many people only apply to one school!) But for most, the decision is a little more complicated and one adolescents might feel ill-equipped to make.
In my estimation, this may be the one decision that 17 year-olds are actually BEST equipped to make. Our role as (caring) adults is to guide them through the process without influencing their decision. The following steps might be helpful in that process:
- “I’ve been rejected!” No, actually it is your application that has been rejected, not you. Being accepted or rejected from a college is not personal. How could it be? These people don’t know you! Have you ever made a collage? You know, those hodge-podge displays of imagery? Well, all the photos do not make the cut. That isn’t because they’re not great photos, but because in creating a collage you need to create (your) perfect artistic balance. Well, college admissions officers do the same thing. They are not pitting one student against another, they are creating their vision of a perfect collage of an incoming class. The fact that you did or didn’t make the cut is not personal.
- “I didn’t get into my first choice!” You’re allowed to brood for a bit. But not too long. This whole thing is a process, you must remember that. There is no one perfect choice. There are millions of choices along the way that lead to wondrous possibilities. So it’s now time to review your acceptance letters and pick your new first choice.
- The Prestige Pressure. There’s no escaping it, is there? You know where your friends (and enemies) are going. The college/university brands are being bandied about like designer labels. Does the most famous school mean it is the best choice for you? Maybe. Maybe not.
- “There are too many factors!” You’re right, there are. Get used to it. No one’s life was ever made worse for too many options. Choice is a privilege. Not helpful? Okay, let’s eliminate the things that don’t matter:
- My boy/girlfriend is going to school X. (Go ask your parent’s friends and see if anyone who chose a school based on dating is now pleased with that decision)
- The school has an awesome climbing wall. (Unless you plan to study physical education, you may be making the wrong choice)
- The school is close/far from home. (The only time this should matter is if someone needs support. If there are family members or you who need the support of home, by all means make this choice to stay close, all others are just being silly)
- The school has an awesome ‘fill in the blank’ team. (Unless you are an athlete being scouted for said team, don’t be ridiculous)
- Things that do matter:
- What is the R.O.I. (return on investment) of the school. This can be determined by calculating the following:
- How strong is the department/major of my choice?
- What are the research opportunities for undergraduates?
- What is the alumni network like?
- What is the career placement services?
- Is there enough diversity (whatever that means to you) for me to expand my experience?
- Is this a party school. (Wasn’t expecting that, huh?)
- Are there the right non-academic options for me (religious, artistic, athletic, Greek system, etc.)
- How do I feel on campus
- If you haven’t already, you must go and visit. There is simply no substitute, virtual or otherwise.
- Is it the right size for me
- If you are considering a university, is the college of your choice the right size? Are there internal transfer options?
- If you are considering a college, does it feel just slightly too large (which is good?)
In the end, there is no one better equipped to make this choice. It is important to remember that it is just that, a choice. You can always change your mind (that’s why transfers were invented.)Wih
November 16, 2011 at 9:44 am
Thanks for this — I especially appreciate the focus on ‘things that do matter.’ You are right that there is no one better equipped to make this choice. Parents or mentors can provide guidance for that choice — both how this college fits the student’s needs and goals and comparing net costs — and the long term aspects of the major, career advisory services, student loan debt, and more. Thanks.