It’s been quite a year. Only last summer you were looking at colleges on the Internet, exploring catalogues in the guidance office and maybe even doing a grand tour of the colleges you thought you might want to attend. You took the SATs, maybe two or three times. You wrote the essay. You filled out forms. You collected recommendations. You put it all in the mailbox months ago.
It’s been a waiting game ever since. Will the college you really want accept you? Will you get enough financial aid? What if the only school that is excited about you is the one you weren’t very excited about? Maybe friends have started getting envelopes thick and thin and the only school you’ve heard from is the “safety school” you applied to last minute. Talk about stress . . .
Here are some things to think about while you wait.
Getting into your first choice is not as important as you think. Schools spend millions advertising their uniqueness, their specialness, their wonderfulness. After all, they have to fill the freshman class and they have to justify the considerable expense of going there. Remember that you (or maybe your parents) decided to make school X or Y your first choice. There were probably hundreds of schools you didn’t even know about or seriously consider. Maybe one of them would have been your top choice if you had. The point is that a “top choice” is partly a reasonable response to good information, partly a reaction to how it “felt” on the day you visited, partly a function of what schools you investigated. You can rethink it.
What if you do get into your top choice top school? Yes, it is some validation for your hard work and intelligence if you are accepted to one of the most competitive schools in the country. But now it’s up to you to decide if you really want to accept the acceptance. After celebrating, take a big step back and let yourself be choosy. Do you still think this is the school for you? Can you afford it? If so, great! Go for it!
What if you get into your second or third or tenth choice? It’s very important to remember that there are excellent teachers everywhere. There are opportunities wherever you decide to go. It’s what you do with what is available is what counts. When acceptances come in, take a new look at all your choices. As flattering as it might have been to be chosen by the school you thought was your number one, you chose the others you applied to for good reasons too. Go back and take a new look at their web sites. Each school has unique qualities. Remind yourself why you applied and what you would get from being there that maybe you would not have found at even your first choice. Focus on what is there rather than what isn’t and you’ll make a good choice.
Just because you get in doesn’t mean you have to go. The fat envelope arrived. It’s an acceptance! But in the meantime, you’ve rethought a number of things. Maybe you don’t want to go so far away (or stay as near) as you thought back in November. Maybe you want to wait a year and do something besides go to school. Maybe you’d like to get some work experience or money in your bank account. Part of making a mature decision may be deciding to wait. Acceptance isn’t fate. It’s an option to consider.