It is that time of the year, with Christmas right around the corner and the end of semester, there is anticipation for all things Yule. This season is also when students start hearing from their Early application schools. Starting last week, schools began rolling out their decisions for those students who hope and pray those schools will see the “love” they have for each school and admit them.
To recap – early applications come in several forms. Early Decision applications mean if you are accepted, you’re done, you’re in, no more fretting about essays or tests or anything else other than finishing high school. Being accepted ED also means you must withdraw all of your other applications, because this is where you are going to school next year. This is part of the contract you, your parents and school signed when you applied ED. Early Action does not have this last condition, but if you get into one of your top schools you may decide this is where you want to go, or let your other applications flow through the process and see where else you are admitted. Single Choice or Restrictive Early Action is the same as the above, but hopefully you followed the conditions of SCEA by not applying anywhere else early (generally speaking). These last schools, like Stanford or Georgetown, are schools you may want to consider attending. You really can’t get much better.
Over the next week or so, students will hear whether they were accepted, denied, or deferred to the schools to which they applied early. This time of high expectations can be one of elation, demoralization, or confusion. Obviously, if you were admitted to an ED school you are above the clouds singing from the rooftops. If you were denied then you’re probably not so happy or maybe even depressed. And if you were deferred to the regular admission pool, a bit confused.
There is a lot of emotion around applying early. Occasionally, there are some unrealistic expectations. One of the hardest parts of applying to schools in the US is that nothing is fast and true. There are no guarantees. There are too many variables a school considers. It is not just about test scores and grades. It is not just about essays or letters of recommendation and it is not just about showing the “love” you have for your “dream” school. Certainly these factors above play an important role, but we have to remember the school is the final determiner of who gets in and who does not.
Students who weren’t admitted into their “dream” school may be hit the hardest emotionally during the application process. Perhaps they had everything perfectly in their application but were simply not admitted. Perhaps these students’ expectations were misaligned with the schools expectations. Sometimes it seems that students look at the whole process wrong. For example, let’s say that X University accepts 40% of their class early. One would think, “Wow, almost half the class is accepted early. This is my dream school, so I have a better chance of get in than in regular decision.” While that line of reasoning may seem sound it still will not work for all students. If you are a student that does not have the right numbers, you don’t say the right thing and or do not meet the school’s other criteria, you most likely will not be accepted. Even if you did say all the rights things in your application and took all the right steps, it is possible that you still won’t get in.
Counselors’ jobs would be so much easier if everyone who applied got accepted to their dream schools. But sadly, the world does not always work the way we want. It is the sad truth that we don’t always get what we want in life. Most often we get what we need and there is a significant difference between “wants” and “needs.” However, there is no question that rejection hurts, particularly if it is an early application and more so if it was a students “dream” school. “Why weren’t they dreaming of me? I have been dreaming of them!” The sad truth is, these schools weren’t dreaming. The have specific goals and expectations as they build their next years class. As a counselor managing student expectations is the hardest part of the job. Counselors must ensure that students are not simply eyeing their top schools but are also focusing on a solid list of schools that cover three basic criteria – Reach, Core and Foundation. I have seen too many students crash and burn with the unrealistic expectations that they will get into their dream school. Really crash and burn. It is sad and hard to watch. But, it is not the end of the world. Really!
While your “dreams” may have been dashed and the world as you thought it would be does not exist, it is time to mourn and then – get back in the saddle and ride forward. Your future does not depend on where you go to school (true fact!). It does, however, depend on how you deal with life’s challenges, and the college application process is just one of many of these challenges. How you manage to move forward with after the outcome of your applications is one of life’s many tests. Go forward, march to the beat of a new drum. Focus on what comes next. And just because you did not get in to your top school does not mean your other applications won’t bring in positive results.
The world is a tricky, sporadic, and sometimes nonsensical place. But the reasons that determine college acceptances, rejections, deferrals, or waitlists may not become apparent until much later in life, if ever at all. Accept life’s challenges; be grateful for whatever comes your way – good, bad or indifferent. No matter what the decision you receive over the next two weeks, remember this – high school is not over until you are finished and graduated. Keep working hard in all your classes. End your high school career with a flourish of strong results. You owe yourself a strong finish!