For teens, especially Juniors and Seniors, the results of the college application process can be both an exhilarating and painful experience. Some are surprised about being accepted into reach schools, and some rejections from easy-to-get-into colleges can be frustrating. Of course, being on the wait list is not fun.
Once all those acceptances, rejections and deferments have arrived, it’s time to choose your future. Many students have until May 1 to make up their minds.
For some, this choice will be easy. For others, the decision will require further analysis, financial calculations and, perhaps, some soul searching to find the right fit.
Here are some thoughts from fellow students and teens who have gone through this process:
- Don’t take it personally.
A brilliant English teacher who had a room full of the top students at a competitive New England high school said, “The elite colleges pull out the files for all of the most qualified applicants, stand at the top of a long staircase, and toss them down. The ones that reach the foot of the staircase are admitted. Accept admissions decisions, good or bad, with a grain of salt and some humility.”The student of this teach went to a great college (not Ivy), was accepted to Teach for America, and now attend a top graduate program. She has no doubt that the caliber of the institutions she attended shaped her in a positive way. The top programs are worth fighting to get into, but neither admission nor rejection is as personal as it feels. Good luck!Two sisters said:
Both were accepted to several schools that were dream schools and rejected or wait listed by a couple of dream schools too. They both professed to be happy with their acceptances and were really happy with their eventual choices.
Another teacher reminded students to remember the important things in life:
The college you go to does not define who you are! Making the most of the experience, getting involved and getting the most out of the experience, the teachers and the connections you make are all relevant to the growth and potential for success. Remember that the love of family, the support of friends, and the desire to learn hasn’t really changed at all. No matter what the results are, you’ve survived a lengthy process and this is something to be grateful for. The world eagerly awaits you and your talents to shine.
- Choose between price and prestige.
One college student at a Top 20 school in Chicago (University of Chicago or Northwestern, your guess) said: “Although I absolutely LOVE my school, sometimes I feel guilty that my parents are paying so much for my education. Some days of class are a waste, and some material I feel like I could learn at a state school for a fraction of the price.”The important thing is that you are going to college! College graduate make twice the amount that of high school graduates. It’s important to weigh the difference between the name of the school, price and the actual education you will receive.Tough choices:
A young man was accepted at his parent’s alma mater, a selective private liberal arts college. However, the acceptance felt almost like a rejection, as he did not receive one penny of merit aid. They had saved for his education since he was a baby, but his college savings took a huge hit with the economic times. So now, this college is out of the picture because they could not fathom him finishing college with approximately 80K in student loans to cover what they didn’t have in savings. His other top choice is a reputable public university which is much less expensive. His mom just wished that the choice of the college that he attends would be based on the best fit for him, not the one they could best afford.
- Visit your prospective campuses. Again.
Some advice from one parent to another:
One hint to parents – accepted student weekends are super important (they turned the tide for both my kids in their eventual decisions) and sincere conversations with financial aid officers about differing financial aid packages can make a difference.
- Develop a P.R. strategy about your college plans.
Come up with something to be positive about if you’ve told people where you’ve applied:
Enduring the multiple questions posed by teachers and friends: “Were you accepted? Did you get money? Where are you going to college?” Although there are many people involved in this process are very supportive, it hurts to admit you are rejected from your top choice.In these times, it is almost better to not tell anyone where you are applying – though it’s hard, it will make potential rejections or even waitlists all the more easy.One teen boy decided to announce to everyone who asked that he had decided to attend truck-driving school, rather than college. Boy, that shut everyone up quick! In fact, he went on to graduate from a public university, and then on to get a masters and gainful employment. But it’s still fun when we run into people in town who want to know how our truck-driving son is doing!
- Have a good weekend. Seriously.
Be kind to your teens – no matter if they got into their first choice or their fifth. Celebrate by taking them to dinner or make a batch of homemade cookies. Be sure they know that if they did not get into their first choice that you are disappointed FOR them, not disappointed IN them. It makes a big difference and even at 17/18 many teens want their parents to be proud.
- Make the most of your choice.
A college student named Katherine is happy that she chose not to apply to an Ivy League school:
I was one of the only students at my (very competitive) high school who did not apply to an Ivy League school. Instead, I applied to places that I believed would accept me and offer financial aid. I ended up at Texas Christian University with a partial scholarship and a year’s worth of credit hours already under my belt. I’ve had the most amazing professors in the world, ones who truly care about and are focused on their students. I’m graduating early with a fantastic and fulfilling education and I do not regret my decision in the least. It isn’t where you go; it is what you make of it when you get there.There are many paths to success. One student decided to attend a liberal arts college instead of an Ivy after being accepted at many schools (including Ivies) and deciding that she felt she would be happier at a liberal arts college given the atmosphere, smaller classes, and fit for her. Scholarship money made the cost about half of what the Ivy would have been. She is now very happy about her choice, loves school and is very glad she made the choice she did. Great education is available at many schools, and largely is what you make of it and the work you put into it.Our society puts a lot of emphasis on where you go to school, and not nearly enough on what you do when you get there. Every major college and university in the United States has top notch professors, researchers, artists and a bevy of intelligent students from a variety of backgrounds. Find them and make the most of these resources.
After you choose your school, please remember: the student who pushes him/herself to learn more, experience more and engage the professors and your intelligent colleagues more, will get infinitely more from their college education than the student who does the minimum to get by. A student from the lowliest state college, who has done this will benefit more from their college experience and be better prepared for the world ahead than the disengaged and disinterested student from the most prestigious private college.
If you want more tips about college, or the admissions process, feel free to contact me through my website at www.Prep4CollegeNow.comor call me at 760.877.7200. I’d love to answer your questions!
Andrea K. Frimmer, M. Ed.
Prep 4 College Now, Inc.
Note: This article is a recap from The New York Timesby Tanya Caldwell. With the competition for college admission being extremely intense today, even the most promising students face rejection or wait lists.