The Feelings Behind Admissions Decisions
April 30, 2014
When you receive your decision, it is okay to feel devastated or elated or anywhere in between, at least for a little while.
When I hear phrases like “it’s not the end of the world” being applied to college admission decisions, I am generally annoyed. A rejection letter may not mark the end of the world as we know it, but it certainly can destroy an envisioned future.
Admission decisions do carry significant weight; I do believe that, like nearly any other factor, they can change the course of a life. I think that, when you receive your decision, it is okay to feel devastated or elated or anywhere in between, at least for a little while.
But, as a high school senior who has recently experienced acceptance and rejection, I have realized that it is important to feel devastated or elated for the right reasons.
Oddly enough, I began my college search a little wiser than I finished it. When I was sixteen, I discovered Oberlin College, and when I visited campus in the spring of my tenth grade year I didn’t ever want to leave. I loved Oberlin because of its rigorous creative writing program, its innovative and passionate community, and because I knew after spending one day on campus that I could be very, very, very happy there.
Of course, I applied to other colleges as well. The most competitive school on my list was Princeton University; my reasons for applying were the impressive names of its creative writing staff, its generous financial aid packages, its incredibly beautiful campus, and, of course, its Ivy League status. I was curious, more than anything, to see if I could be accepted into one of the most elite universities in the world.
As admission decision season drew closer, however, the possible acceptances and rejections from these schools took on a different meaning. It became no longer about where I would spend four years, where I would learn the most and be the happiest; a single “yes” or “no” from the most prestigious university on my list became increasingly the most significant measure of my worth.
My daydreams were no longer of living on a college campus, meeting interesting people, doing interesting things; they were of the simple and somehow cheaper pleasure of being able to wear the name of my college like a medal, inscribed with the proof of my value as a person.
The need to be accepted to Princeton—the need to be accepted, not necessarily the need to attend—became all-consuming. And it wasn’t until I was waitlisted at Princeton, and visited Oberlin for a second time as an accepted student, that I realized how silly that “need” had been. Oberlin was obviously the better fit, but I had forgotten this in my desire to feel validated by an acceptance letter.
And so I think that when you get your admission decisions, it is okay to be upset or excited or disappointed or ecstatic or pleasantly surprised or even indifferent; whatever your reaction, be sure that you are reacting to the idea of attending or not attending that college, not to the idea of the college’s name on your sweatshirt.
A college acceptance should feel like an open door, not a trophy; and a rejection should be a sign that your open door is leading to some other room, not a sign that you are any less of a person.
Need money to pay for college?
Every semester, Fastweb helps thousands of students pay for school by matching them to scholarships, grants and awards for which they actually qualify. Sign up today to get started. You'll find scholarships like the $2,000 "No Essay" Scholarship from Niche, a scholarship open to all U.S. students and those planning on enrolling within 12 months.