Advice for Approaching College Admissions Decisions

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College acceptance season has begun! It’s a time when seniors are obsessively checking their emails and application portals, anxiously hoping for good news. The hallways and social media sites are buzzing with whispers and posts about who got in where and many students are still frantically trying to finish those last few application essays.

Family and friends are constantly asking “Did you hear yet?” and for seniors, it feels like their entire futures rest on a single yes or no. From our own experiences applying to various schools for undergraduate and graduate degrees and from working with high school students for several years, we have identified a few rules of thumb for navigating this phase.

Maybe you have an inbox full of acceptances and your dilemma now is how to choose which one you like best. If so, congratulations! Working toward a goal and seeing your hard work pay off the way you had hoped is incredibly rewarding. But as you savor the moment, remember that your journey isn’t over just because you were admitted; rather, it’s just beginning. Remain humble and committed to the hard work and dedication that earned you your reward. And be respectful and supportive of your friends and classmates as they receive their decisions. Some of them will inevitably be disappointed (and probably jealous), so could benefit from your kindness and encouragement. Enjoy the remaining months of senior year and summer with your friends, and soon you will get to experience that dream that once seemed so distant, but is now a reality.

Maybe you had your heart set on a particular school, but the admissions decision didn’t go your way. Maybe you worked tirelessly to improve your grades and test scores, but they weren’t strong enough for your top choice. Or maybe you did get accepted to your dream school, but it isn’t financially feasible for your family right now. It’s ok to be disappointed, but I promise that this moment will not define the rest of your life. Where you go to college matters so much less than what you do when you get there. No institution will ever define you. Wherever you end up, you can use your talents and passions to help define the institution. No matter where you are, you can take classes that interest you, participate in activities that get you excited, take advantage of internship opportunities, and find a place where you belong. No school comes with a guarantee of a successful future. You are the determining factor in your future. Reflect on your disappointment and vent with family and friends if you need to, but don’t fall into a rut. You’ll be alright!

With everyone announcing their news at school and on social media, it can be hard to not get caught up in the comparison game. Try your best to not let yourself fall into the trap of thinking that other people’s college news says something about you. Someone else’s success is not your failure. Everyone’s journey is different; there is no one correct path. One person’s backup plan may be another person’s dream and both are worth celebrating.

Regardless of your path, remember that grades, test scores, activities, and accomplishments are always secondary to the people in your life. Express gratitude for everyone who has helped you and continue to develop strong relationships with family and friends.

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