Playing to Win vs. Playing Not to Lose

You may not have been following Georgia Tech football in recent years. Suffice it to say, it’s been rough. Rough– as in three consecutive three-win seasons. If you are not an American football fan, it’s important to note- there are a lot more than three games in a season. Last month I walked by a man and his family looking at the field and overheard him say, “When I went here they played football down there. Now I hear they host some good concerts.” So, bottom line- not good. 

As a result, a little over a week ago, our head coach was fired, and assistant head coach and Tech alumnus Brent Key was named interim coach. In his first statement to the press, Coach Key stressed the importance of playing to win versus playing not to lose. His point was our players were worried something would go wrong and were playing tight as a result. He wanted them to feel empowered to make things happen versus waiting for things to happen. Well…in his first game as head coach, the Yellow Jackets (a double-digit underdog) traveled to Pittsburgh and beat the #24 Panthers. Clearly, Coach Key had unlocked (yea, I went there) something in his players.  

If you are a senior, my hope is you will also play to win versus playing not to lose in college admission and your final year of high school as well. Here’s what that looks like.

  1.  Trust yourself. Playing to win means believing in your preparation, intuition, and ability. Lots of seniors right now are stressed about their essay with EA/ED deadlines looming. Listen- you can write. And you have valuable stories to tell and perspective to share. There is no perfect essay topic, so don’t let that give you anxiety. Admission readers want specifics from you. They want to read something uniquely yours. Playing not to lose would be convincing yourself you need more multi-syllabic words or angsting over possibly missing a comma splice. Playing to win means being prepared, I.e. writing multiple drafts, having one or two others give you feedback, and then hitting submit with the confidence that you have done your best work.  

In the year ahead, I also hope you will trust yourself when it comes to the colleges you chose to apply to and those you decide not to pursue. To hear yourself you may have to tune out other voices. When you are deferred, waitlisted, or denied, trust other good things are coming your way. Success in college admission is not getting into your “top choice,” but being prepared, excited to play, and ready to take advantage of the opportunity wherever you end up. Playing to win will mean quiet confidence when the day comes to put your deposit down or close apps at other schools. Trusting yourself means knowing the choice is authentically yours.  

I hope your senior year is characterized by building friendships, preparing academically, and enjoying a unique time you’ll never be able to repeat. Take time to thank and appreciate the people around you who believe in you.  

2. Be Proactive. In the Pitt game and going forward, Coach Key wants his players to make plays, rather than waiting for the game to come to them. Good high school students, good college applicants, and good college students do the same thing. What is not done today that you need to take care of? Are you procrastinating on finishing your application? Figure out what it’s going to take and execute that plan. Are you nervous or unclear about what test optional really means at a college you are considering? Reach out to them. Do you need a teacher to write a rec letter for you, or your neighbor who is an English teacher to look over your essay? TODAY is the day! The college admission experience, if you will let it, can teach you lessons about how to succeed in college and beyond. Playing not to lose means hoping, worrying, and being tight or nervous. Playing to win means being proactive. 

I hope this is how you approach the rest of your senior year too.  A year from now your parents, teachers, coaches, boss, and the other supporting adults in your life won’t be there in the exact way they are currently. Are you waiting on them to provide, guide, decide, or drive?  I hope you won’t spend the year looking around waiting for others to create opportunities for you. To make a play you must move. What do you have to lose when you are playing to win?

3. Have fun.  I Googled fun and did not see pictures of people answering short answer prompts, brainstorming essay topics, or taking standardized tests. But let’s flip the script here. You don’t have to apply to college. Unlike the vast majority of the world’s population, you get to apply to college. We often call it an admission process, and that can make it feel like a grind. I believe that term makes this all seem transactional versus being transformational. Don’t lose sight of the big picture here. If you are reading this, YOU ARE GOING TO COLLEGE. That’s amazing! That’s exciting. Where? I don’t know. You don’t know. So, yea, there’s some uncertainty and mystery. Again, flip the script. Instead of that being what has you nervous, get excited and commit to having fun with the adventure of discovering.  

Ok. Let’s play this out and assume you won’t get into a couple of the schools you apply to. Playing to win does not mean everything goes your way or you control every down or play. Instead, it means you are on the field. You are in the arena. You get to see how and where your preparation, effort, ability, intuition, and excitement lead. That. Is. FUN.  

And again, same for your senior year.  Enjoy. Have fun. Laugh, smile, do things you want to do. For the love of all things holy don’t let college admissions dominate this final year of high school.  Playing to win means being relaxed, confident, trusting yourself, being proactive, and absolutely having fun. And, as always, hug your mama. 

Will Tech beat Dook (you run your spellcheck and I’ll run mine) on Saturday? I am not putting $ Down. But I know they’ll be playing to win- and I’m hoping the same for you in the days, months, and year ahead.   

 

What Are Your Admission Requirements?

Recently, someone asked me what has changed at Georgia Tech since I started in the early 2000s. Almost everything it seems. When I arrived, our undergraduate student body was a little over 11,000—compared to almost 18,000 now. The parking lots that littered the interior of campus have been replaced by green space or pedestrian walkways, and as a result golf carts, bikes, scooters, hoverboards, longboards, unicycles, and mopeds are the predominant wheeled devices/vehicles on campus. “Online” was literal, you needed a physical key to enter buildings, and the Atlantic Coast Conference included nine teams- all of whom were close to the actual Atlantic Ocean.

From an enrollment and admission standpoint this is also true. At that time, Tech’s first- year class was just over 2,000. In 2022, our transfer class alone will push 1,400 with another 3,700 students beginning as first-years. Our application count was lower, our admit rate was higher, and as a result our review process, admission timeline, and staff structure all looked radically different than today.

What has not changed is the fundamental question students ask—”What are your admission requirements?” READ: Please just tell me clearly and plainly what I need to do/have to get in?

There was a time when I could (and did) answer, “Sure. Get a 3.7 GPA, 1300 SAT, write a few lines on your essay, do some stuff outside the classroom, and we’ll see you in the fall.”

Now, you simply cannot give a purely quantitative answer, because GPAs are not uniform across schools, states, etc. With an applicant pool of 50,000+, it is the very rare applicant who has below a 3.7 GPA. Certainly, a big part of this is due to rampant grade inflation in our state and beyond. But it is also because the traditional 4.0 scale (extremely common two decades ago) is the exception now. At that time, 4.0 was perfect and you could not exceed it. Now, due to the weighting of courses and the proliferation of grading scales, providing any specific number as a minimum or requirement is misleading at best.

For instance, we recently looked at the 256 students who applied last year from a large public Atlanta Metro high school. 192 (75%) had above a 4.0 GPA. I have visited schools with GPAs evaluated on scales of 5.0, 6.0, 13.0, as well as others abandoning numbers entirely for narratives, graphics, or emojis. Tell a student with a 10.2 GPA they need a 3.7, and they’re thinking, “Yes! My Cs are really paying off now.”

This is why, when you ask what seems like a very simple and logical question, “What do I need to do/have to get in?” (especially of colleges receiving far more applications than they have spots available in their class), you’ll inevitably get long-winded answers, passionate hand motions, and at least two mentions of “holistic.”

What are your admission requirements?

Unlike my early days at Tech, I cannot give you two numbers or a formula. But I can still make you a promise. I can still tell you what you will need to do/have in your college admission experience (and your future college career) to be successful.

 DO Keep an Open Mind

As a senior, especially one reading this blog, you are inevitably receiving an absolute crap-ton (forgive the highly technical language) of information from colleges. Emails, brochures, postcards, and increasingly more invasive modes of communication (ads in your feed, text messages, pop ups of varying kinds) on a daily or weekly basis. I completely understand how this deluge of marketing material could seem annoying, but I’m imploring you see it instead as encouraging and broadening.

Even if you have never heard of a college that mails you something in the weeks ahead, take the time to open it. Be willing to examine what you see, read, hear- and consider what interests you or does not resonate. Ultimately, the willingness and openness to new ideas, and the earnest consideration of places, people, ideas, that are not familiar is not only the sign of a good college applicant, but a great college student too.

In my experience, the students who end up the most disappointed by the college admission experience are those with a fixed and limited mindset- those who are trapped and myopic about the idea of one place, one kind of place, or one definition of “good” or “best.” Conversely, students who finish their senior year satisfied, gratified, and confident in their college choice are often not the ones who got into their top choice or had a completely smooth experience. Instead, they acted like students in the college admission experience—they thought deeply, committed to a dynamic mindset, and were willing to question and test assumptions or information they acquired along the way.

What is required in college admission (and college as well)? An open mind.

HAVE a Support System

Go to almost any admission information session or listen to a panel of admission deans/directors talk for five minutes and you’ll hear a lot of focus on YOU.

They will say: YOU need to own this process.

They will say: We want to hear YOUR voice in your essay (not your mom’s, your best friend’s, or the one you paid for from some purported expert online or down the street).

They will say: Do you own work, think for yourself, and figure out why you care about going to college, pursuing a particular major, or anything else a college advertises or touts as a selling point.

I agree wholeheartedly. However, all of the talk about YOU can dilute how imperative it is as a college applicant to surround yourself with people you know and trust.

Over the course of the next year, the likelihood is you are going to face some disappointments, dark days, and bad news when it comes to comes to your college admission experience.

Perhaps this will be as minor as angst over your essay topic, having to wait months for decisions, or being deferred or waitlisted by colleges. For some this comes in the form of an admission denial, or not receiving adequate financial aid/scholarships to afford a school you want to attend.

The truth is college will bring more of the same. Inevitably, you will have classes, relationships, internships, exams, or situations that will force you to question yourself, your decisions, and your abilities. Good times, right?

There is no panacea here. But when it comes to keeping perspective; when you need to be reminded of who you are and the value you bring; when you need encouraging words to help you bounce back or try again, your support system will be critical. True as a college applicant- true as a college student.

So, I want to encourage you to highly limit what you share on social media about your college admission experience. Instead identify two or three people you can consistently talk to and walk with through applications, decisions, consternations, and celebrations.

What is required in college admission (and college as well)? A solid support system.

What are YOUR requirements?

Let me flip the question. Instead of asking what a college requires of you, ask what you require of them. Take time to write down and consider the types of programs, environment, support systems, etc. that you really want or need. Clarifying your requirements will be far more valuable than obsessing about admit rates, rankings, number of benches, or squirrel/deer to student ratio.

My hope is you will resist the prevailing urge to quantify and distill college admission into simple numbers. Instead, DO keep an open mind, HAVE a support system around you, ASK what you require of colleges, and I promise your college admission (and actual college experience) will be far more rich, meaningful, satisfying, and transformative.

Selective College Admission is March Madness

Learn more and listen to Q&A about this blog on the College Admission Brief podcast: Spreaker | Apple Podcasts | Spotify

Have you ever had one of those moments when you see someone in a totally different way, or realize something that has been right in front of you for years?  

In my life, a few of these include- noticing the clock on the iPhone has a second hand, seeing both a duck and a rabbit in this picture, and well… my wife—it only took me seven years of friendship to recognize she was “the one.”

Watching the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) Basketball Tournament this month I was embarrassed to realize that in almost seven years of writing this blog, I’ve never recognized the many parallels between The Big Dance and selective college admission. 

Selection 

GPA/Winning Percentage: In both the men’s and women’s tournaments, 68 of the over 350 Division 1 teams are chosen to participate. “The committee” evaluates and selects teams based on win-loss record, strength of schedule, i.e., rigor of competition, as well as a variety of other statistics. Like holistic admission review there is no predetermined formula for making at-large “bids” and awarding a slot.

In other words, your high school grades, like a team’s season record, matter. However, each year many teams with the same (or even better records) are not invited to the tourney, just as some students with the same, or even higher GPAs may not be admitted. On the men’s side this year, a good example is the University of Michigan (17-14, 56% winning percentage) receiving a #11 seed, while University of Florida (19-13 59% winning percentage) is left out entirely. While many people will call, email, or show up in person to argue that a 3.8 or 4.7 should have “been good enough” to “make it,” the bottom line in a selective process, is colleges (like the selection committee) don’t put GPAs into a spreadsheet, plug in a formula, and make offers of admission.  

Rigor of Curriculum/Strength of Schedule 

Listen to any admission representative from a selective college articulate what they are looking for academically, and they will inevitably talk far more about the rigor of your course choice than your actual GPA. When a reader opens your application, the first question is, “Where does this student go to school?” Their goal, as they read your school profile and understand your curriculum, is to understand what courses you could have taken versus what you chose to take. Ultimately, the selection committee wants to bring teams to the tournament who have been challenged and are prepared to play at the highest level. With college admission—same, same. 

Some spots are held

Yes. There are 68 spots available each year in the tournament. But… not exactly. 32 Conference Champions are automatically included, leaving 36 “at-large.” The same is true for colleges.

  • At Georgia Tech, for instance, 60% of our class comes from Georgia, even though only 17% of applicants are from the state.
  • Schools account for the number of recruited athletes who will be part of their class.
  • Some colleges have special programs for artists or other specific talents– and the overall applicant pool is simply not going to be considered in the same manner for those positions.

  • If  young Candler Woodruff (whose actual blood type is Coca Cola) applies to any Atlanta college, you can believe that spot is taken. Same for Leland Stanford VII applying to The Farm in Palo Alto. Two years ago, much ado (yes, I largely wrote this blog to use that phrase) was made about Gap Year students “taking spots.”
  • At Georgia Tech, we guarantee admission to valedictorians and salutations of in-state high schools. Go ahead and lump all of these examples into “conference champions” or held spots or a reduced class size.

Call it what you want. Colleges like the NCAA Tournament are going to create a diverse mix, but they do not go about this in a completely uniform (no pun intended) way. Fair? Perhaps not. But this is the Big Dance, friends. It exists for a purpose. It has a mission—and like colleges, it is a business. Not a conference champ? Get over it and play.  

The Waitlist… aka Play-In Games 

This year, in the NCAA Women’s tournament, Dayton, Howard, Missouri State, and Longwood all advanced to the first round, after having to win their play-in games. Each of them could have made an argument for why they should have received a higher seed, and another 20 teams could have contested they deserved the play-in slot. The parallels continue between holistic admission and the NCAA Tournament.

If you are currently on a waitlist, you have a decision to make. You can opt- out, cancel your application, deposit at another school, buy the t-shirt, and get ready to lace ’em up for that college in the fall. That’s not a bad or wrong decision, as long as you are fully committed to it. 

Or you can claim your spot on the waitlist (we have covered this before, friends). You are not just on the list typically, so read your email closely- and do what it says. While there is no guarantee you will “advance” (see Florida State, Incarnate Word, DePaul, Mount St. Mary’s), the magic of March Madness starts on the opening tip of the first play-in game… but you have to show up to shoot your shot. In other words, if a college you really want to attend offers you spot on the waitlist, don’t let your ego or criticism of the committee selection process hold you back.

Make the most of your opportunity 

The pandemic has shown a bright light on the power of deciding how we show up each day. Regardless of the circumstances around us, we put our feet on the floor in the morning and make a choice about our attitude, our investment, and our goals. You may not have been admitted to your “first choice,” or you may receive a financial aid package that makes your “dream school” financially unaffordable.

If this is the case, I’d invoke the now holy name of St. Peter’s, who became the first #15 seed in NCAA Men’s Tournament history to advance to the Elite 8. Along the way they knocked off #2 Kentucky, #7 Murray State, and #3 Purdue along the way. Some will call them a “Cinderella.” I say they made the most of the opportunity they were given.  

If you are a senior, it’s my sincere hope that in the weeks and months ahead, as you receive admission decisions and weigh your college options, you won’t concern yourself with the committee selection process, or what someone else “got” that you feel you deserved. Instead, embrace the opportunities you have been afforded. Lace ‘em up, keep your eyes forward not backward, and head into the fall ready to embrace your “One Shining Moment!”  

Learn more and listen to Q&A about this blog on the College Admission Brief podcast: Spreaker | Apple Podcasts | Spotify

Here Comes the Sun: A Parent’s Perspective on Deny

Learn more and listen to Q&A about this blog on the College Admission Brief podcast: Apple | Spotify | Spreaker | Google

This week we welcome Regional Director of Admission for the Mid Atlantic, Kathleen Voss, to the blog. Welcome, Kathleen!

Rick Clark, I actively AVOIDED your previous two blogs about messages for parents of students applying to college.  This was very hard for me to do, as I am huge fan of your blog and a huge fan of you.  This morning, I grabbed a cup of coffee and, even with 200 applications sitting in my queue, braced myself and sat down to read all about the mistakes I have made.

You see, recently this whole “parent with a child in the college search” thing has become a real drag… and I want to send it and your blog to a place where the sun doesn’t shine!  I say this with the greatest admiration, respect, and love for you Rick, but on Friday my daughter received her first “deny” from a college.  Now I find myself in uncharted waters. The gate was closed on the gatekeeper’s kid…. and it stinks!

Becoming “That Parent”

As much as I hate to admit it, in that instant I became THAT parent.  I am 100% more disappointed than she is. Before you ask, of course I did not let her see my disappointment. I checked my emotions, took a breath, and said, “It’s their loss.”

While we both anticipated this result (my enrollment manager brain crunched the numbers weeks ago), I could not get it out of my head that this college was a great fit for her. The proximity to home was perfect. She could realistically start on day one as an Admission Office tour guide because she knows so much about the history of the institution.  We have a close relative who is recent graduate and has so much in common with my daughter. I LOVED THAT SCHOOL!

We are in the last lap of this search. DANG IT! Remember your PRONOUNS!!!!  My DAUGHTER is in the last lap of the college search process. SHE is waiting to hear from a few more schools. She seems to be dealing with everything well…. even the deny. She is calm and reasonable. After living with a college admission counselor for 18 years, she seems to have absorbed my trade craft.  She recognizes what she can and cannot control in the process. She feels confident that she put forth the best applications that she could. She spent time on her essays and only asked me to look over her final draft.  She has and continues to work hard in high school, though senioritis is starting to creep in. Sounds like a dream, right?

So why do I feel like I have been hit by a Mack truck?

I’ve had hundreds of conversations with students and parents about the reasons behind Tech’s admission decisions.  I have comforted, counseled, and moved on. I get it…  at least, I should get it. “It’s not you, it’s me.” Rick’s blogs make perfect, reasonable sense. This feels personal– but it’s not.

I hurt for my daughter and this first taste of rejection. And selfishly, it stings for me and my ego.  No, I am not planning to follow anyone into a parking lot to ask “why?” and I won’t be calling our Governor (he clearly has his hands full right now).

But there is value in seeing both sides of the same coin.

Another Challenging Year 

It has been an incredibly challenging year for our admission staff.  A fair number of us in the office have kids who are juniors and seniors in high school.  We all read applications from students who remind us of our own: a shared birthday or hobby, similar family dynamics, the same senior schedule, a common class that was especially difficult. When we open these files, we can’t help but think, “I sure hope the admission counselor at XYZ University is REALLY looking at all of my child’s amazing qualities.  I hope they aren’t too tired, and they really READ her essay, recommendations, and activities.”

While we face every year with professionalism and rapt attention, this year, we senior parents have been laser focused on ALL those holistic points, searching for answers, double checking our work, and willing our colleagues at other schools to do the same for our kids.

Add to this seeing so many young people being put through the absolute wringer during Covid.  I have read more essays about trauma, grief, depression, and anxiety in the past four months than I have in my entire 29-year career.  It has been heart breaking. The respect I have always had for my colleagues in school and college counseling offices across the nation has increased 1,000-fold. If we are seeing this volume of stress in applications, I can only imagine how it must impact their daily lives.  Then we add having to deny applicants during an already really challenging time.

But we do it. We must. We have over 50,000 applications. We will deny more than half of them. And by the way, that half is amazing, like my daughter, which makes it all the harder. Supply and demand. Mission driving admission. All valid and logical, but this year especially, it is a part of the job that just sucks.

It WILL Be Okay

If you know me, you know I am a positive person, and there is no way that I can write a blog that starts with me being insubordinate to my incredible boss and ends with me almost swearing. So, let me end on a high note: to the parents reading this, it will be okay.  Whether your child was denied at YOUR first-choice college, or THEIR first choice, it will be okay.  It has been a joyful, emotional, and eye-opening ride and I have newfound perspective and patience.

As the end of this amazing college search is in sight for my family, I’d like to recognize and give gratitude to the following.

West Virginia University, you were the first school to admit my daughter.  I can still see the excitement on her face when she opened that email. We sang “Country Roads” at the top of our lungs. I am so impressed by your communications. They are warm, welcoming, and positive!  You seem to intuitively know the questions that we have at any given time.

Providence College, you hosted a FANTASTIC open house. I know how much work went into that event and you did it with grace and style…. and SNACKS!  You made my daughter feel welcomed and comfortable from the start.

Barry at Pitt, in the middle of a record-breaking season, you took the time to reach out to me and answer my questions. I am grateful to you and can’t wait to sit on a panel together IN PERSON once again.

University of Rhode Island, thank you for recognizing my child’s talent and success.  I whole heartedly agree with your assessment of her!

Eli Clarke I am grateful to you for your wisdom, friendship, and support and for your amazing Tik Tok @mr.c_collegecounselor, which offered my daughter and so many others exceptional advice throughout the process.

WHS Counseling Staff, I don’t know how you do it. This has been such a wild and intense year for you. Somehow you have managed to balance crisis management, mask wars, and 1,000 other things you do in a day and still make yourselves available to help students with their college search questions. I SEE YOU!

Rick Clark, for your great insight, which, even in the throes of disappointment, is calming and rational and brings us back to earth.  Maybe we could just forget that I wanted to stick your blog in a sunless place?

Kathleen Voss has worked in college admission for over 25 years. She joined the Georgia Tech Office of Undergraduate Admission in 2013 as the Institute’s first Regional Director of Admission. Prior to Tech, Kathleen worked regionally for Manhattan College and as the Associate Director of Admission for Regis College in Massachusetts. She is a member of PCACAC and serves on the Admission Practices Committee. She enjoys spending time with her husband and two daughters and volunteering in her community.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Applying to College Isn’t Like The Movies

Listen to the Podcast: Spreaker | Spotify | Apple Podcasts

This week we welcome current Admission Digital Media Student Assistant Sarah Engel to the blog. Welcome, Sarah!

This admission blog has long been written by experts in application evaluation, the admission counselors themselves. But they’ve always hoped you would seek out additional voices in your college admission experience as well—students who can share the culture and community of their colleges as they experience it every day, who can provide been-there-done-that support and encouragement as you navigate the college admission experience. And truly, as a current college student, and the first to write on this blog (no pressure!) I can echo the importance of those lived perspectives. I know first hand that when you’re actually in the midst of gathering your materials, writing your essays, and sending them off to colleges with the click of a button, it can all seem a little…surreal and disconnected. Not only do you have academic and social pressures from your friends and family, you likely have your own, internal expectations and media driven perceptions that hover over you like a dark storm cloud. 

Press Play

Growing up, I recall seeing countless teen rom coms and dramas in which the protagonist is somehow accepted into a prestigious university. Serena van der Woodsen from Gossip Girl being admitted to Brown University despite never attending class? Aaron Samuels from Mean Girls getting into Northwestern despite not understanding calculus? And, of course, the entire cast of High School Musical committing to Ivy Leagues, Juilliard, Stanford, and UC Berkeley? Not once did I see them studying between musical numbers in the gymnasium!

Disney family singalong: Zac Efron joins 'High School Musical' reunion

Now, in the age of social media, we are constantly exposed to “Reacting to my College Decisions” videos of shrieking students surrounded by family members, deserving student stories on Good Morning America being posted across Twitter, and congratulatory Instagram posts for friends committing to universities. As exciting as these seem, I know from experience how they can affect one’s mental health. The neverending stream of collegiate content across the internet, film, and television puts an invisible weight on the shoulders of students to perform well. Audiences (myself included) love the satisfaction of a loveable character embarking on a new, happy journey. But how realistic is the journey really? And what does this fascination with college in the media mean for real students applying to real schools?

Take a Pause

Spoiler alert: life isn’t always like it is in the movies (seriously, how do characters have so much time to hang out before they go to work and school in the morning?) and social media isn’t all that realistic either. When your admission experience looks different from everyone’s social media highlight reel, and Disney’s happily-ever-afters, that can feel a little lonely. But you’re not alone. My hope for you is that you’ll be kind to yourself. Check in on your friends, check in on yourself, have honest conversations with each other, and set boundaries. Hey, I work with digital media in our office, and while we hope to provide helpful content to students, I know that muting and stepping away from the screen can absolutely be an act of self-care. Taking breaks isn’t just healthy, it’s necessary.

Fast Forward 

Let’s look beyond the admission decisions: a fast forward through time for you, a rewind in time for me. Though it feels recent, I applied to college over three years ago (how is that possible?!). I remember dreading meetings with my college counselor, stressing over standardized test scores, reading my essays over and over, asking for recommendation letters, and that agonizing waiting period after applying. But then came the spring of 2019, and I was perfectly calm. Excited for the future, researching classes and clubs, planning out my dorm room decorations, and connecting with future classmates on social media. So much has changed for me since then! What hasn’t changed, however, is this truth: that, after the dust settles and the whirlwind of admission hype and headlines is behind you, what’s in front of you is an opportunity that’s yours to embrace. The keyword here is embrace. You may receive many admission decisions in the months ahead, ranging from exciting and surprising, to disappointing and… “you mean to tell me I have to send them more information?!”  The admission decisions themselves may not be yours to make, but choosing how you move forward, is. 

When I was a freshman in high school, I dreamed of going to a liberal arts college in the northeast. Perhaps Yale University, like Rory Gilmore (Gilmore Girls), or NYU, like Lara Jean Covey (To All The Boys I Loved Before). I thought, with my grades and extracurriculars, I’d be able to get in anywhere and everywhere, that I would live out the dark academia aesthetic of my dreams (a la Harry Potter). But by the time I was touring and applying to colleges, that fantasy seemed so far away. I had to face a reality check somewhere around junior year. I realized I wasn’t getting many scholarships at private, out-of-state schools. I also came to understand that I didn’t want to be all that far from my family. That I could always revisit the liberal arts school dream for graduate school. 

As colleges prepare to release decisions in the coming weeks and months, I hope you take away at least this message: it works out. Everything will be okay. Your admission decisions might not be the fairytale ending you first imagined, but that’s because they were never really an ending at all…just the opportunity to embrace a new storyline, whatever it may be. Don’t be discouraged if your fictional hero or heroine is accepted to every school they apply to, or if your best friend got a better scholarship than you. Remember that you are the protagonist of your own story on your own path. It might not be easy, but try your best, and believe me, #ItWorksOut.

Sarah Engel is a third-year LMC major from Dunwoody, Georgia. Her involvements have included the North Avenue Review Magazine, LMC CoLab, Excel Program, German National Honor Society, and FASET. Now, she works as the digital media assistant for the Office of Undergraduate Admission.