Tuesday, June 15, 2021
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Don’t fret those applications

I don’t know how many college students will find this article relevant. But now watching my younger brother and sister go through the process, I feel compelled to write about it. I know how much you’d all prefer to read my thoughts on the political and economic landscape of the last week.

I’m talking of course about the college application process. I remember this time very well. Coming home from school every day and frantically searching through the mail for letters from various schools. Hoping to see the coveted big and thick envelopes that ensured acceptance even before tearing it open. The disappointment of a regular-sized enveloped that always seemed to contain the phrases, “We regret to inform you … each year we must reject more qualified students … very competitive class.”

I got really used to those phrases. As a senior in high school, I applied to 11 schools., and I was rejected or waitlisted at eight of them. I still cringe when I see an application for anything.

Going to a “great” school seemed to have been the plan for me since birth. My mother and father always had me in the best schools, pushed me to succeed in my studies and encouraged me to join extracurricular. I worked really hard and I felt like I had put my best foot forward with the applications. I had the grades and the test scores. I played football and wrote for the newspaper. And I met with teachers to ensure that my essays were up to par. I felt like I had seized the moment.

And then I got rejected. A lot.

It hurt and I let it get to me. I became ill. I wondered why this was happening to me. I questioned whether I still wanted to even go to college in the fall. I felt like I had wasted the last four years. I became spiteful of other applicants, of admissions counselors and of the process as a whole. I was filled with disappointment and I had no idea where I was heading or how my story would unfold.

And then something amazing happened. It all worked out fine.

So that’s my message to anyone going through a process where rejection is a possibility, whether it be to a college, internship or job. Know that there is always light at the end of the tunnel, no matter how dark it is halfway through. Know that we learn more from our failures than our successes, and it’s okay to fall down, get dirty and break something. And most of all, in the words of Conan O’Brien, “Know that your mistakes are your own unique way of getting to where you need to be.”

So don’t become too disheartened if your letter is thin and small. You’ll most definitely survive. Life goes on. And you may even prosper because of the decision. In many cases, some of the worst things to happen to us are often blessings in disguise.

Open those mailboxes with confidence. As I realize more and more, college is what you make of it. And if there’s ever a testament to the inadequacy of the selection process, Michael Jordan watched two players get picked before him.

Debra Shaver, dean of admission at Smith College, sits next to stacks of applications from prospective students for the class of 2016.


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