With the competition for college admission being extremely intense today, even the most promising students face rejection or waitlists. In 2018, The New York Times published an excellent article titled “6 Tips About College Admission Results” by Tanya Caldwell that is a must read for all high school students, especially juniors getting ready to begin their college application process in a few months. I reprinted the article in its entirety because it is well worth the read. Enjoy!!
For students, the results of the college application process can be both an exhilarating and painful experience. There are the surprises of being accepted into reach schools and the rejections from colleges once considered shoe-ins. And, of course, the limbo of the waitlist.
Once all those acceptances, rejections, and deferments are tallied, there is the stark realization that it is time to choose your future. Many students have until May 1 to make up their minds.
For some, the choice will be easy. For others, the decision will require further analysis, financial calculations, and, perhaps, some soul searching to find the right fit.
On Thursday, readers of The Choice gathered around our virtual kitchen table to share admissions results and reassurances. Here are some words of wisdom from readers who joined us:
1. Don’t take it personally.
Here’s what one reader, identified only as “R,” had to say:
I had a brilliant English teacher who looked at a room full of the top students at my competitive New England high school and 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.”
I went to a great college (not Ivy), was accepted to Teach for America, and now attend a top graduate program. I do not doubt that the caliber of the institutions I attended positively shaped me. The top programs are worth fighting to get into, but neither admission nor rejection is as personal as it feels. That being said, I’ve never forgotten my teacher’s advice, and I pass it on as often as possible. Good luck!
ELN, who has two daughters who are now college grads, said:
Both my daughters (Vassar 08 and Mount Holyoke 11) were accepted to several schools that were dream schools and rejected or waitlisted by a couple of dream schools too. They both professed to be happy with their acceptances and were really happy with their eventual choices.
BTDT reminded students to remember the important things in life:
Remember, whether you cry tears of joy or sorrow about your admissions decisions, you are not defined by the institution that awards your college degree. Getting in doesn’t mean life’s doors are now open to you without effort and drive. Being rejected doesn’t mean your dreams are suddenly and forever dashed. Sure, celebrate or mourn for a bit, but then realize that the important stuff — the love of family, the support of close friends, the desire to learn and explore — really hasn’t changed. No matter what your envelopes say, you have survived a lengthy and often exhausting self-reflection process and should be commended. Well done. The world eagerly awaits your contributions.
2. Choose between price and prestige.
“M,” a current college student at a “Top 20 school in Chicago (University of Chicago or Northwestern, your guess)” said:
Although I 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.
If you will struggle with student loans for decades after you go to an Ivy League or equivalent, it isn’t worth it. There is no magic education wand that these Top 20 schools have. You are only paying for pedigree.
One parent, “J Janas,” acknowledges that the choice is a tough one to make:
My son was accepted at my alma mater, a relatively selective private liberal arts college. However, the acceptance felt almost like a rejection, as he did not receive one penny of merit aid. We have saved for his education since he was a baby, but obviously, his college savings took a massive hit with the economic times. So now, this college is out of the picture because we cannot fathom him finishing college with approximately 80K in student loans to cover what we don’t have in savings. His other top choice is a well-regarded public university which is much less expensive. I wish that the choice of the college that he attends be based on the best fit for him, not the one we can best afford.
3. 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 my kids in their eventual decisions), and sincere conversations with financial aid officers about differing financial aid packages can make a difference.
4. Develop a P.R. strategy for your college plans.
One reader, Jennifer, suggested the silent treatment:
The hardest part is not just being rejected at face value by these schools but having to endure the constant questions posed by teachers and other students: “Were you accepted? Did you get money? Where are you going?” Although all of the people involved in this process are very supportive, it hurts to admit you are rejected from your top choice.
In these times, I feel it is almost better not to tell anyone where you are applying – though it’s hard, it will make potential rejections or even waitlists all the easier.
A mother named Anne has an alternative solution for students who feel pressured when others ask about their college plans:
Years ago, one of my sons solved that by announcing to everyone who asked that he had decided to attend truck-driving school rather than college. Boy, that shut everyone up quick! He went on to graduate from a public university and then on to get a master’s 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!
5. Have a good weekend. Seriously.
A post-results plea to parents from a reader:
And parents, be kind to your kids. No matter if they got into their first choice or their fifth. Celebrate with them, whether it’s a dinner out or a batch of homemade cookies. Make sure they know that if they did not get into their first choice, you are disappointed FOR them, not disappointed IN them. That’s a big difference, and even at 17/18, many kids want their parents to be proud.
6. 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 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’m graduating early with a fantastic and fulfilling education, and I do not regret my decision. I’ve had the most amazing professors in the world, ones who truly care about and are focused on their students. It isn’t where you go; it is what you make of it when you get there.
More advice from GN, a parent:
An excellent education is available at many schools and essentially is what you make of it and the work you put into it. There are many pathways to success and happiness. My daughter last year decided to attend a liberal arts college instead of an Ivy after being accepted at many schools (including Ivies). She deciding that she felt she would be happier at a liberal arts college given the atmosphere, smaller classes, and fit for her. Scholarship money at the smaller college was not the deciding factor but certainly 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.
And, for now, a final word from “A.D.”:
Our society emphasizes 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 various backgrounds. Find them and make the most of these resources.
After choosing your school, please remember: the student who pushes themselves to learn more, experience more, and engage the professors and their 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 have any other questions about selecting a college or the admissions process, please contact me through my website at www.Prep4CollegeNow.com or call me at 760.877.7200. I’d love to answer your questions!
Andrea K. Frimmer, M. Ed.
Prep 4 College Now, Inc.