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How To Focus Forward After An Initial Rejection

With results from the early round of applications widely available, I have noticed many behaviors and perceptions regarding admissions getting altered. I have found some families to be unreasonable with their expectations, and others to be overwhelmingly grateful. Certainly, those attitudes correlate heavily with the decisions received. With many more decisions to get released over the next few months, let’s make some simple facts obvious:


– There are no guarantees for getting into Ivy League universities, or to any school, for that matter. Your parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents may have all attended a prestigious school. You have a perfect GPA, test scores and are close to finding the cure for diabetes. You have done everything right for the past 17 years to guarantee your spot at your family’s alma mater. Even then, nothing is guaranteed. I have been surprised by the number of parents shocked when their child is rejected at a top tier school; teens tend to be more realistic and take it in stride. Remember, just because your child did not get into one of those eight schools it does not mean that their future success will now be limited. They are still the same amazing kid you raised and that potential is still burning brightly.


–  Admissions will seem harder this year than they did last year, mostly because this time you are going through it. You will read a slate of articles about declining admissions rates and rising applicant pools. You will read in decision letters how “this was the most competitive class ever” and “it was incredibly difficult to make the decision.” You will compare yourself or your child to children in the past who were admitted and wonder what went wrong. You will complain that it is not fair. While the admissions pool is getting larger, students who are smart about their college lists will have plenty of options come springtime.


–  There are factors beyond your control that impact admissions decisions. In the past, I have written about the impact of athletics, legacy, and diversity in admissions (among several other factors) that affect how decisions are made. These factors are still at play. Behind the locked doors of admissions offices, real people are trying to find the balance between rewarding you for your accomplishments and efforts and building the best class for that college that year. These admissions officers do face the tough task of having to deny students not based on the quality of the applications, but on the fact that some students just did not fit this year. This is where the “injustice” of it all seems the most pronounced. This, by the way, has always been the case — we just have so much more information about who is getting in these days, mostly due to technology.


– You will get into college, assuming that you built a well-rounded list. I know it is scary to not get into or get deferred by the first college to which you applied. For many of you, this might be the first real rejection you have faced. While it is hard to believe now, in a few months you will look back and wonder why you were worried. If you need to make adjustments to your list, do so; there is still plenty of time. But other than that, just keep up your hard work.


–  Senioritis is not a real thing. It is a made-up reason to slack off during the second semester. There is no psychological or medical reason for this to happen. In fact, you must keep up your grades. You should keep up with your activities because they are important to you. You should keep challenging yourself because that is what life is about. You should still try to learn as much as you can now; you don’t have to wait to start college. This does not mean you shouldn’t have fun. And really, you should not be giving up on life experiences and fun throughout your life simply for the sake of getting into college. It is a balancing act that you will have to learn to master and there is no better time than now to practice.


Admissions are at once and paradoxically, overwhelmingly complicated and seemingly simple. But rather than focus on that conundrum, just focus on yourself and be confident. You got this! 


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