Updated: Apr 18
By Arlene D. Nagtalon
Image via alumni.cornell.edu.
While people believe that college application season ends as soon as they are submitted, students, like myself, are forced to wait until decisions roll out before the overwhelming stress finally subsides. As an overthinker, pondering the possibilities of one of the four college decisions — rejected, waitlisted, deferred, or accepted — is self-inflicted torture. We cannot help but wonder what our ultimate fate will be. Being judged on these four crucial years of high school to determine whether or not we are admit-worthy is nothing less of excruciating.
Without a doubt, the 2020-2021 school year has been extremely challenging for high school and transfer students anxiously waiting to hear back from their top-choice colleges. As the Associate Director of College Admissions of the College For All Program, a free college consulting program for teens by teens, I’ve seen and experienced this myself. Although most students are expecting to return to campus on Monday, April 12th, seniors have been sitting impatient wondering about the unpredictability of admissions. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has only made the waiting period during the college application process more nerve-wracking with waitlists being longer than ever before. Still, even in these trying times, it’s difficult to imagine that the future lives of this year’s high school seniors are being decided at the peak of incessant adaptation to the circumstances of this global pandemic.
However, one of the most important things to consider is that this time of year, that waiting period, is one of the most stressful times in any teenager’s or applicant’s life. Only surrounded by the constant reassurance by friends, family, and other loved ones can we successfully get through any decision from any college that comes our way. As we are being assessed on grades, extracurriculars, community service, and other factors that comprise the holistic admissions process, here are five reminders and things to keep in mind for anyone anxiously waiting for that update regarding their application:
1. Quiet your inner voice and filter positive thinking.
Especially at this time of year, our inner critic, or at least mine, has been tormenting me ever since I clicked on that “submit” button of my application. Unnecessary comments like, “You should’ve said *insert crucial thing about yourself* in your interview.” or “With that 4% acceptance rate, there’s no way you’re going to get in.” will only put you down. Don’t reject yourself before the college rejects you! There’s a reason why you applied, so keep that cause close to you. All that you put down on your application is the culmination of all of your years at high school, maybe even middle school. Even if you may not feel accomplished, I’m proud of you for getting this far. Though it is much disputed that college decisions are dependent on luck, rather than thinking about getting rejected, think about how amazing it would be for you to get into your dream school.
2. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else.
One of the primary reasons that notable universities and colleges across the globe have adopted the holistic admissions process is because no two applicants are alike. Whether they may be from the same school or family members, numerous factors influence them to pursue different career fields and interests. In nearly all cases, there is no single factor that will be the tell-tale sign you should expect to receive an acceptance. Please remember that, similar to these other applicants, you have something special to offer. Whether it be your passion for creating equitable communities, giving back to the less fortunate, or simply educating others on a boring topic that you find interesting, know your worth and know that you are enough. Not being a portrait chosen to be hung on the walls of a museum doesn’t make you any less of a unique masterpiece.
3. Prestige isn’t everything!!!
Yes, I said it. There’s a reason why Ivy League schools and Stanford have such incredibly low acceptance rates. Let’s face it: over the years, acceptance letters have been extremely coveted because they come from elite schools that typically favor the white and wealthy. Especially with the Operation Varsity Blues bribery scandal coming to light, it comes to show how celebrities and other notable figures would have the audacity to pay large sums of money and ruin their integrity solely for their children to take up spots in schools that they don’t deserve to go to. In fact, while interviewing Dr. Nguyen in my previous Dr. Plastic Picker article, she had mentioned to me that as a Harvard alum, “It is really no different than any other university.” Similar to designer brands like Gucci, Chanel, and Louis Vuitton, these schools are hyped up by ambitious students dreaming to attend and be known internationally. As someone who’s watched college reaction videos on YouTube religiously to feel hopeful, we all yearn to cry those happy tears and know that these schools want us as much as we want them. Still, your education and your degree is ultimately what you make of it. I guarantee you that you will find and obtain that quality learning at any other diamond-in-the-rough college that is not as decorated or well-known. (Plus, you can always apply to graduate school if you don’t get in the first time!)
4. You will be successful at any school you commit to.
Many of us come from public high schools and wish to attend these universities for the quality of learning and plethora of resources/opportunities they can provide. In reality, I’m sure that one of the approximately 5,300 colleges and universities in the United States can offer similar, or better, chances of learning in an unconventional matter, whether it be studying abroad or in the outdoors. When students are driven and motivated to apply to these top-notch schools, they often forget that plenty of others are searching for applicants with the qualities they already possess. Because higher-level education consists of not just professors and faculty, but the large student population, we all have much more to learn from each other than you do in smaller schools. You get back what you put into your learning, and that goes for any experience you may come across. With that in mind, don’t think that you won’t be just as capable at succeeding in a community college compared to an elite school.
5. The college you choose does not determine the course of your future!
Most times, whenever we research prestigious schools, we come across the list of alumni that have graduated from there. Many are aware of the presidents and politicians that have attended Ivy League schools and were considered the pride of their university. However, other notable figures didn’t even get their degree for them to be as great as they are now. Ingvar Kamprad, the founder of IKEA, had no schooling whatsoever, yet he is now a Swedish billionaire profiting from his business ventures in furniture. Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg are also famous college drop-outs who still managed to become tycoons in their industries. The bottom-line is, no matter where you come from or where you go, anyone has the capability of being successful. Getting into an Ivy League school or Stanford doesn’t automatically mean that you are guaranteed a prosperous future. Similarly, being a highschool or college dropout doesn’t make you a failure. With that said, do what you will with your life and what is right for you. A lot can happen in four years, or more, so it’s up to you with what you do in that time.
All in all, for those of you expecting Ivy League and/or Stanford decisions this week, I wish you the best of luck for favorable decisions! However, it isn’t the end of the road for you either if you receive that dreaded rejection. Whatever the future holds for you, remember that you’re ultimately in control of it. Similar to a crush not liking you back, focus on yourself and move on. Whatever will be will be, and I believe that you can and will do great things with college merely being one trajectory out of the many paths you can take. As Stanford student and YouTuber Arpi Park says, “Don’t give them [elite schools] the satisfaction of you putting them on a pedestal, of actually caring about college rankings. Education should be focused on the individual.”
Written by writer Arlene D. Nagtalon