It is Saturday at 5:30 a.m. and pouring rain.
There are two ways I can view this fact:
- It’s dark, windy, early, and of course… it is the weekend. Naturally, it’s been beautiful all week (while I was working and could not really enjoy the weather). I am only up because I set my alarm in hopes of getting some time before the day gets rolling to read, think, and take care of a few things for work. But now my son’s soccer game will be canceled, which means I definitely could have slept longer- something that does not happen often- and certainly not Monday through Friday.
2. The rain is going to wash away all this God-forsaken pollen that has been caked all over our cars and porch and wreaking havoc on my allergies. No soccer game means no driving, no waiting around for the match to start, and more family and free time today. Also, I love running right after the rain, and sometimes heading out in the middle of it when nobody else is on the streets.
Ultimately, our perspective, and where we focus, is a decision. In March and April, college admission is full of decisions. Admit, deny, waitlist decisions coming out from colleges. And as a student or family, receiving that information, coupling it with financial aid and scholarship details, and making big decisions yourself.
A few years ago, my friend and colleague Akil Bello coined the phrase “highly rejective” colleges. I appreciate the reframing from “selective” and think it’s helpful to students in understanding the reality of supply and demand in higher education.
For the same reason, I am an advocate of universities highlighting both the percentage of applicants they admit and deny, in hopes of encouraging students to consider a balanced list of schools to visit or apply to.
At Georgia Tech this year, we admitted 16% of applicants. Some students did not complete their application, some canceled before we could make an admission decision, and some are currently waitlisted. Still, at this point, we have denied first-year admission to about 70% of applicants.
In terms of motivating my team, and staying focused on our goals, I have two options:
- I can embrace this moniker of being a “rejective” college (according to ChatGPT, “highly rejective” only kicks in at 10%). I could open my inbox and read the volley of angst from amazing students who were denied, frustrated parents who are… frustrated, or alumni who are considering removing Tech from their wills or “never stepping foot on campus again” (Yes. Those quotation marks are literal). I could go to the grocery store or church or my son’s soccer game and see neighbors and friends who Tech (sometimes perceived to be Rick Clark) denied this year. I could get really twisted up by the question posed to me on a panel recently, “How do you sleep at night knowing you turn down thousands of incredible students every year?”
2. I can focus on the fact that Georgia Tech is the 2nd fastest growing public school in the nation behind UC-Merced (and they sort of have an advantage given they were established in 2005).
I can focus on the 8,400~ first-year applicants we admit or the 11,000+ students we offer a Tech undergraduate opportunity to via first-year, transfer, and dual enrollment. I can appreciate that this year we’ll enroll 6000 new undergraduates and that this year we enrolled 3000~ more undergraduates than just five years ago.
Of course, none of that changes the fact that we “turn down thousands of incredible students every year,” but my answer to that question on the panel was that I sleep just fine (sometimes aided by melatonin), because I choose to focus on admission. Our team works incredibly hard and it pays off. We create lots of opportunity and choose to celebrate the abundance of good news we distribute. Tech is a public good for our state that develops leaders who advance technology and improve the human condition at the local, state, regional, national, and global level. Our work is big, significant, and important, and as a result the future is bright!
Focus on Admission
As a student, you have a similar choice:
- You can focus on the negative: you did not get in to your first choice; three schools waitlisted you; or you are experiencing the 8th level of admission purgatory—being deferred and then waitlisted. You can focus on the financial aid package that did not come through or the kid in your class or down the street (actual or imagined) who got into a particular college when you believe you are more qualified– or want to go there more.
2. You can focus on admission. If you are a senior reading this, you have college choices and options. And be reminded, my friends, that was the goal from the outset. I am urging you to focus on the YES’.
You can read back over those letters of admission that celebrate your accomplishments and welcome you into their communities. You can go to your mailbox or inbox and see invitations to admitted student programs or offers to visit campus and connect with other students.
You can celebrate the hard work you have put in to get to this point and consider the innumerable and fantastically unknowable future opportunities you will discover at the college you select. None of that changes the fact that one (or a few schools denied you), but I am hopeful you will “highly reject” that vantage point, and instead FOCUS ON ADMISSION!
Congratulations! Your future is bright– even if you happen to be reading this on what is (or simply feels like) a cold, dark, or rainy morning.