The month of March means a lot of things to different people. For some, it’s a beginning. Winter takes its final bow and spring appears on the scene. But if you ask high school seniors what March means, they will tell you that March is when college decisions come out.
College decisions fall in three categories: accepted, denied, waitlisted. These decisions are communicated generally by email and sound something like this:
“Congratulations! It is my pleasure to offer you admission to the Class of 2020 at the College of ABC.”
“Thank you for applying to the ABC University. After completing a careful review of your application and supporting credentials, our Admissions Committee has concluded that we are unable to offer you acceptance to the university.”
“The Committee has carefully evaluated the applications of over 28,000 applicants and has placed you on our waiting list.”
Of course every student wants to receive the congratulatory email. But the reality is that some won’t. They will be denied admission or waitlisted. And while I have the joy of sharing in the good news with some students, I have the difficult task of walking through disappointment with others. It’s not easy. And even though I try to prepare myself for the disappointment that students feel every year, it always hits me hard. It’s not easy to explain to a student how their years of hard work could result in what they perceive as failure.
Four years ago, I experienced it firsthand. My oldest child had worked so hard in high school. She had maintained a 4.0 average, had near perfect standardized test scores, was a leader in several clubs and wrote a solid college essay. Her teachers praised her in their letters of recommendation. She was a National Merit Scholarship recipient. And yet, the decisions she received from colleges were so disappointing. Fast forward four years. She continues to be a student leader, thriving at a school she never imagined herself at. It was her safety school.
There’s a line from The Sound of Music that I absolutely believe: When God closes a door, somewhere He opens a window. God’s will doesn’t always involve having everything turn out the way we think it should. Sometimes, God’s will involves a path we had not planned or imagined. But sometimes God knows better than we do. If you had told me last year that I would uproot my family and be working at a boarding school on Long Island, I would have laughed and said you were crazy. Nine months later, I’m a different person now than I was when this wild adventure started! There are so many lessons I would not have learned if I had not allowed God to take me to a place I never imagined.
So take heart, especially if your college decisions didn’t turn out the way you hoped they would. There are many roads to success. And it’s not the name of the college that will make you, it’s what you make of your college years.
I’m reminded of a book by Frank Bruni. He’s a writer for the New York Times. Frank Bruni wrote a book several years ago entitled Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be: An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania. The book has been hailed as an “inspiring call for a wiser, saner approach to American higher education.” Bruni examines both parents’ and students’ obsession with elite colleges and argues that getting into an elite college is not the single key to success later in life. The book is peppered with data validating the fact that many students succeed in life, even if they didn’t go to that elite college.
So when you make your college decision, be open to the options presented to you. Take stock of the schools that accepted you and know that these are the schools that really WANT you. Weigh out the pros and cons, look at the financial aid package and the reality of your family’s ability to pay for college. Talk to your college counselor (that’s me) and your parents. And when you make the final decision and send in your deposit, be hopeful that your four years at that college can be a wonderful experience.
Let me end this blog post with a quote from that profound author, Dr. Seuss:
“You’ll be on your way up!
You’ll be seeing great sights!
You’ll join the high fliers
Who soar to high heights.
You’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So…get on your way!
Seniors, I wanted each of you to know what a blessing it has been to walk through this process with you. In my heart, you will always be special, because you were my very first senior class at SBS. Thank you for being open to a new college counselor; I know that it was not easy for some of you. Yet each of you welcomed me, shared your stories, and allowed me the privilege of walking through this stressful, yet special time with you. And while I know that some of you didn’t receive the answer(s) you wanted, I am also confident of this:
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11