Letting Go: Dream Colleges

By: Raina Kamrat

Seniors, college is right around the corner for us. We have to send confirmation letters or finalize gap year programs or apply for jobs. I don’t think I’ll be alone when I attend a great school, but… it wasn’t my first choice.
College admissions rates have fallen to frighteningly small figures. Some of the most prestigious colleges accept a mere five percent of applicants. This trend seems daunting (see also horrific, nausea-inducing, and crawl-under-your-bed-and-cry-from-anxiety-causing) when you’re first applying, but it’s reassuring on the other side. When you’re handed that rejection letter, it is almost never a reflection of your worth as a student or person. More likely than not, your rejection letter was sent with regrets and doubts as admissions officers shake their heads, unable to accept every qualified applicant. Colleges and Universities have limited spots and endless applications: they simply can’t accept everyone. I like to picture an admissions officer flipping a coin over two applications, completely at a loss over who to admit.
With that rejection letter, remember that you are still a valuable student filled with potential. Hypothetical scenario: a senior applies to and gets rejected by Yale. Sure, maybe this person’s first choice college is phenomenal; however, it turns out that being the type of person who applied to and is considered by Yale is more important than actually getting in to Yale. Sound paradoxical? Two economists, Stacy Dale and Alan Krueger, studied students of comparable abilities who attended “selective” and “less selective” schools. They found that “students who attended more selective colleges do not earn more than other students who were accepted and rejected by comparable schools but attended less selective colleges.” Translation: Despite being rejected by a selective, top-choice school, hypothetical senior (HS) can still live a good life (and probably sans the hefty debt).Why? Because the habits HS forms around work ethic and stress management matter more to HS’ future than the college HS actually winds up attending. 

“Even if students don’t get in [to the college of their choice],” Krueger wrote, “the fact that they are confident enough to apply indicates they are ambitious and hardworking, which are qualities that will help them regardless of where they go to school.” Those qualities shine in the classroom and the workplace. According to Newsweek’s 2010 study, employers ranked experience, confidence, and appearance over where an applicant graduated college.
“[Students’] lives have already been shaped decisively by the sum of their own past decisions — the habits developed, the friends made, and the challenges overcome,” Derek Thompson, senior editor for The Atlantic concluded.
And this essay hasn’t even touched on bad decisions — ones made by college admission officers. Make them realize what a miserable mistake they made in rejecting or waitlisting you. Head for your dreams and be your fabulous self; you don’t need that college to approve or improve your abilities. As long as you remember that your life and self-worth are not defined by institutions of higher learning, you’re going to succeed for sure. Stay strong, seniors!


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