College Admission: Give Your Full 75%!

In many ways it appears we are nearing the end of the pandemic. While the most uttered term in 2020 was “pivot,” in 2021 “return to normal” is making a strong campaign.

I am urging you not to do that! Do NOT return to normal. Normal is overrated. DO NOT rush back to what was, but instead be very intentional about what you add back to your daily life and commitment list.

If you have not already done so, take some time this week to write down, voice record, or make notes in a document the things that you:

  • Really missed
  • Did not miss at all
  • Can’t wait to get back to
  • Hope will never full return
  • Lessons learned
  • Covid Silver Linings

If you are a junior/sophomore, doing this will be incredibly helpful as you begin your college search. Your answers will point you to identify your needs versus your wants and will help you figure out- and ultimately ask- very specific and pointed questions to admission officers, current students, and faculty members at the colleges you consider.

Maybe what you really missed was the opportunity to discuss what you were reading in smaller settings and receive more personalized interaction with your teachers. Yes, that is important! Yes, that is something to pay attention to and something that actually separates these colleges that, if you simply look at the brochures and online ads seem to all run together with sunny days and kids in pastoral settings earnestly debating issues.

If you are a senior, you are not done. Did someone tell you that? The things you missed really matter as you prepare for your first year. This summer you need to give thought to what those things were and come up with a plan for how you can immediately incorporate them into your life on campus.

Too many students get out of balance in their first semester one way or the other—either they lean too much into academics or allocate too much time and energy into social/community. If you really missed playing soccer or practicing taekwondo when things were shut down, plan to plug into those outlets early and consistently in the fall. First-years often underestimate how important the patterns they set are for mental health, building community, and being successful on all levels in college. This may sound obvious but it’s important- you only get one chance to start right. Make a plan now!

Conversely, if there were certain people (types of people) or habits that you realized during the great pandemic pause that are not healthy and don’t bring you joy/energy, well… don’t go back to them in college. Period.

Control What You Can Control

One of my big lessons from 2020 was: “Control what you can control.” I have now written that on a chalkboard, used it as a screen saver, and am giving some serious thought to ordering a mousepad or trucker hat with that statement soon. (My colleague, Ashley Brookshire, also wrote a great blog on this subject in 2019).

Try This: Before you go to bed tonight use a sharpie to write “CWC” on your hand. This will serve as a reminder for tomorrow morning when you wake up. From the very beginning of your day until  you go to sleep, take mental note of what you do and do not control throughout the day.

  • How quickly the shower water gets (or stays) hot
  • What you eat for breakfast
  • The weather/traffic
  • The mood of others
  • The texts, emails, calls you receive

Take note of what pops up in your day that derails you from getting something done or forces you to put in more time than you originally expected at school, work, practice, and so on. Pay attention to the noises, smells, voices around you.

What do you and do you not really control in your day?

What percentage of your day’s experience did you control?

Do you think if you looked over the course of a month or a year your percentage would be higher or lower than today?  

Maybe your control barometer will end up way above mine, but most days (especially during the pandemic) I was not breaking 50%, and often it was way less than that.

Controlling YOUR College Admission Experience

Juniors/Sophomores: How much of your college admission experience do you think you will be able to control? And for seniors, as you look back, how much would you say you controlled?

Do you think that percentage would be higher or lower than your average day? If you trust most of what is written about admit rates, the cost of college, waitlists, and so on, your guess may be in the single digits. BUT after watching this cycle repeat itself for 20 years now, I am here with a very different message. At this point, I am convinced that you control 75%.

25% – Where you apply. There are nearly 4000 colleges and universities in the United States alone. Many of them are already sending you emails, letters, or big brothering their way into your screen and feed. They are courting you, soliciting you, marketing to you, but ultimately it is your choice to apply or not. In other words, you decide the five, seven, eleven (please don’t go much higher than that) colleges you are interested in attending. Where you apply is totally in your control. Think about it this way- YOU are eliminating 99% of possible colleges. Talk about highly selective!

25%- Who offers you admission. So… this would be the part that you DO NOT control. If you or your parents are trying to manipulate or game exactly where you are admitted or how much financial aid you receive, please go watch The College Admission Scandal on Netflix. And if some agent or consultant tells you they “know” how this is going to play out…again, Netflix. Who offers you admission is not up to you, but again that’s only a fourth of this equation.

25%- Which college you select to attend. If you do your research, apply to a balanced list of schools (academically, financially, and selectivity), and remain open to several “top choices,” you are going to have great options. The ball will be back in your court in the spring of your senior year, and you will get to choose from your options.

Unfortunately, most of the conversation, press coverage, and general angst surrounding the college admission experience centers around where students do or do not “get in.” They make it feel like a zero-sum game that ends with either an offer or denial of admission.

In contrast, the people who really know and do this work (admission professionals/ school counselors) are always pointing to options and speaking broadly rather than narrowly. They knowthat true success is putting yourself in a position to make your own decisions. Your goal is to have choice and options. Which college you attend is up to you.

25%- How you show up. Seniors, I am looking at you!

This is the Tom Brady, Steph Curry (insert your favorite athlete, actress, CEO here) portion of college admission. This is about showing up on Day 1 with a mentality of being all in. In my opinion, is the most important part of the pie.

Plenty of kids who “get into their dream school” end up miserable there. Conversely, I’ve spoken to dozens of students in my career who did not end up at their “first choice” (a term I’m campaigning to eradicate) and ended up Kool-Aid drinking tour guides and the college’s biggest cheerleaders (sometimes literally). These are stories and experiences dictated by a mentality, rather than any particular campus.

If you are a senior, this is where your focus needs to be. Regardless of whether the college to which you have committed was your number one in January or not, it needs to be now. Your job is to get your head right this summer. Check your posture and be ready to walk onto campus head up, arms out (this is figurative, my friends), and ready to embrace your new community, and to make the most of the opportunities it presents.

I have said before and will not quit reiterating that the college admission experience, if done correctly, can teach you a ton about your actual college experience and life well beyond. The truth is that being committed, making the best of every day, situation or relationship, and choosing joy, community, and engagement is going to serve you well as a friend, partner, employee, and family member throughout your life.

I always thought it was dumb when people would say, “Give 110%!” because that is not really a thing. But 75%! Now that’s a thing. That is a lot of control. That’s an entirely different story—and it is a good one. Have fun living it out!

Same Kind of Different, Part 2

This week we welcome Director of Communications for Enrollment Management, Becky Tankersley, to the blog. Welcome, Becky!

Listen to “Same Kind of Different, Part Two (Lets Talk Communication!) – Becky Tankersley” on Spreaker.

Let’s do a quick exercise: imagine its admission decision release day. You worked for weeks to prepare. You’ve collaborated with a variety of people to be sure you completed every action item on your list. Now you’re online, eagerly checking Reddit and College Confidential to see what other people are saying. You may be sending frantic texts or emails to others who are also waiting, making sure there isn’t something you overlooked (even though you know for a fact you’ve checked everything at least a dozen times). You wait… you watch… until the clock hits noon and the decision is released.

Sound familiar? What I just described is decision release day from an admission or enrollment communicator’s point of view!

Just as a tremendous amount of work goes into reviewing admission applications, a tremendous amount of work goes into the communications behind those decisions. In Same Kind of Different, Rick talks about the time and energy spent by his staff in reading applications (and I can confirm that YES, he’s being honest when he says EVERY application is read by an actual human, often multiple times).

The Communications Conduit

Our communications team does not read your application, but we do serve as the conduit between the admission team and you. Our staff writes your emails and letters, creates and updates websites, designs mailers and flyers, and generally keeps the communication train moving. Preparing communications for decision release is not unlike you preparing your admission essay: we write the first draft. We review it with admission. They make edits. We make revisions. We send it back and forth anywhere from 2-10 times.

Making a list, checking it twice (or twenty times)…

After it’s final, it THEN goes to our editor in Institute Communications to ensure it makes sense to someone outside of the admission world (after you’ve lived and breathed admission for several years, not to mention read something 100+ times, it takes an outside perspective to ensure admission jargon doesn’t creep in and those pesky typos and/or broken links are caught). They review. We edit. Once that’s complete, we upload the final version into your admission portal. And guess what? Then we review it again!

Letters, portals, emails, forms, websites, FAQ pages, print pieces. I’ve been involved with decision release for almost a decade, and the importance of the moment has not yet diminished.

Watching and Waiting

During the week before decision release, we watch Reddit, College Confidential, and hashtags on social media (I confirm what you suspect—we are watching!). What are you seeing? What are you saying? Every year we see applicants frantically search for any little sign that might indicate a decision. A fourth tab in a portal? A Pay Now button? An email from financial aid? Just as you are constantly checking and digging, we’re constantly listening and reviewing until decisions are out. Your online chatter helps us identify any gaps we may have missed.

It’s not lost on us that every little thing makes a difference. We see the tension and anxiety many of you experience. Your work has all led up to this moment. It turns out we’re not that different. While you anxiously wait for a decision, we anxiously wait for you to receive that decision. We’re aiming for a smooth process for you… one that is clear, transparent, and gives you all the information you need, avoiding confusion along the way.

Nowhere Near the End…

At this point in the year, most admission decisions are out from schools around the nation. While you may not have received all the admission decisions you hoped for, there’s no doubt you’ve gotten in somewhere (likely many somewheres!) amazing.

Getting in is a big accomplishment… but it’s nowhere near the end of your journey. So, what happens now?

Finish the drill.

You’ll find your email inbox incredibly full over the next month, and it’s imperative that you read what we send! Your admission application was just the beginning… now that you’re “in,” there is a litany of next steps to complete. Deposit deadlines, financial aid completion, housing, orientation, learning communities, visit events, meet and greets… these are only a few examples of the communications you will receive. Read the emails from the schools where you’ve been admitted, and regularly check your applicant portal as well.

Pay attention to dates.

As mentioned above, many of the communications you will receive are time sensitive. And, while inconvenient, the deadlines vary from school to school. Not only is there variance from school to school, you’ll see differences at the same school from year to year (for example, last year Tech’s deposit deadline was May 1, and this year it’s May 3).

Don’t assume the deadlines that applied to your sibling or friend who got in a year ago are the same deadlines you have, especially since we’re all still operating amid a pandemic. Read the information, and pay attention to the dates. Inside tip: any school with a CRM (customer relationship management) can see what emails you’ve opened, and which ones you didn’t. If you miss a deadline and say “I didn’t receive/see that email,” well, it’s not going to hold any weight when we see that you 1) received it, and 2) opened it.

Yes, it matters!

After you’ve done the work to apply, be admitted, and pay a deposit to commit, following the steps above still matter. We know your inbox is overloaded. I promise we try not to make it worse! Be assured that the communications we send to you are mission critical. Our job is to be sure you to know what is next, what opportunities are available, and the deadlines looming on the horizon. So, don’t slack off now! You paid attention before you were admitted, and it’s even more important that you pay attention now.

A Tip of the Hat

Communication teams typically don’t receive the same attention that admission and financial aid teams do. After all, those offices are the boots on the ground, talking personally to students and families from year to year, creating relationships and adding the personal touch.

But standing quietly in the background are communicators making sure the information you receive is clear, understandable, useful, and most importantly, correct. From web developers to information technologists, marketing specialists to editors, graphic designers to mail house teams, there are many people working behind the scenes to get the job done.

So, here’s to you, campus communicators! The work you do matters, and admission, recruitment, and enrollment couldn’t happen without the work you do. Thank you!

Becky Tankersley has worked in higher education for more than a decade in a variety of roles in admission and enrollment management. Before starting her career in education, she worked as a television news producer. Her current role blends her skills in communication and love of college recruitment. Becky is the editor of the GT Admission Blog, and also serves as a Content Coordinator for the American Association of Collegiate Registrar and Admission Officers.

Myths and Misperceptions about the MBA

This week we welcome Katie Lloyd, Ed.D., Associate Dean, Evening and Full-time MBA Programs at the Scheller College of Business to the blog. Welcome, Katie!

Listen to “Myths and Misperceptions about the MBA – Katie Lloyd, Ed.D.” on Spreaker.

It’s never too early to think about your future. Now you might be shouting at the screen, “I just decided to attend _________! Of course, I’m thinking about my future.” Absolutely. Enjoy these noteworthy moments as well as your upcoming undergraduate experience. I hope it is only the beginning of a wonderful journey of lifelong learning.

College is an amazing time to explore new interests, activities, and relationships – and as you start to map out your future – an MBA is a great option to consider.

Photo taken prior to Covid-19 pandemic.

There is a lot of jargon, myths, and misperceptions associated with an MBA degree, so let’s break it down.

First: What is an MBA? An MBA, or Master of Business Administration, is a graduate program for students seeking a general graduate business degree. In addition to learning the basics, MBA programs also allow you to go deeper into business subject matter. There are a variety of MBA program formats available. Let’s tackle some of the myths and misperceptions surrounding the degree.

Myths

Myth #1: I should go to graduate school right after college.

An immediate path to graduate school may be the best course of action for some degrees, however, it’s ideal to gain work experience before applying to business school. A few good reasons to wait include:

  • MBA programs are built on classroom discussion and practical application. Students with work experience can contribute more to discussions and typically make better teammates.
  • Employers want to hire MBAs who have prior experience – and some companies require a minimum number of years. The requirement varies across industries, but three to five years is typical.
  • Students who have impressive pre-MBA profiles will have more post-MBA opportunities. More experience can also mean higher salaries.

Did you know? Some MBA programs, including Georgia Tech’s, allow you to apply for deferred admission into an MBA program your final year of college. You are still required to work before starting the MBA, but the deferred application process allows you to secure an MBA as a possible future option sooner.

Myth #2: I need to be an undergraduate business major.

It’s true that a bachelor’s degree in business can demonstrate critical thinking and analytical or quantitative aptitude, but so can engineering, sciences, and economics degrees. Students who pursue majors outside of these areas may also highlight aptitude by taking statistics, accounting, and other quantitative electives. MBA programs review the difficulty of your undergraduate degree and your performance. If your coursework can’t easily affirm potential success in graduate-level business classes, strong performance on the GMAT or GRE can help.

Photo taken prior to Covid-19 pandemic.

Myth #3: MBA programs only want applicants who are accountants, consultants, or entrepreneurs.

Absolutely untrue! While having an early career in any of these areas is great, it isn’t the only path to an MBA. Peace Corps volunteers, educators, engineers, veterans, architects, computer programmers, doctors, scientists, salespeople, journalists… they can all be qualified and compelling MBA candidates. Students who bring varied perspectives into the classroom encourage rich discussions and different approaches to problem solving.

Myth #4: MBA programs are only for Wall Street wannabes.

Just as MBA applicants bring a wide range of backgrounds into the program, MBA graduates also pursue a variety of careers afterwards. An MBA prepares you to make industry advances and significant career changes. You take a core curriculum in business fundamentals like finance, marketing, management, accounting, technology, operations, and strategy, and then can go deeper in one of them or specialize in something like real estate, sustainability, or innovation. Your classwork and projects, as well as extensive leadership and career development training, can lead to careers in almost every industry.

Did you know? Many MBA programs offer dual degree options that enable you to pursue two degrees simultaneously or consecutively. Popular options include the MD/MBA (medicine), JD/MBA (law), and MS/MBA and PhD/MBA in specific disciplines. At Georgia Tech, there are several dual degree choices. Masters or doctoral students who combine their studies can distinguish themselves in the hiring process and gain more long-term career flexibility. Also, it typically takes less time to complete the two degrees than if you were to do them independently.

Myth #5: MBAs are all about making money.

While many students return to school with the goal of increasing their salaries, MBA programs also help students build connections and do good within their communities. There are volunteering and community service opportunities, you can consult for non-profits, or even tackle environmental and social issues both during and after the program. Additionally, MBA students gain access to a new, diverse network that helps them build meaningful, often lifelong, relationships.

Photo taken prior to Covid-19 pandemic.

Myth #6: I need to leave my job to enroll in an MBA full-time.

Traditional MBA programs took students away from the workforce for two years. Now, there are many alternative formats. There are one-year accelerated programs, part-time options, online formats, and executive MBAs. The full-time, two-year option is still popular if you want to make a career change, as it allows you to gain relevant experience during a summer internship. Do your research and talk to admission offices to figure out which program may be the best for you.

Misperceptions

There are widely held misperceptions about most MBA admission processes. A few have been addressed in this blog series previously, but bear repeating:

Misperception #1: Most admission teams look for reasons to deny you.

While we look for certain desirable characteristics on your MBA application – we really are rooting for you! We have a lot of information to use in the evaluation process: undergraduate grades, leadership, work experience, recommendations, essays, test scores (sometimes), and an interview. You control these factors to a significant degree.

Misperception #2: Test scores are the most important factor.

While a strong performance on a standardized test (the GMAT and GRE are the most common) can help establish your quantitative aptitude, MBA programs emphasize other factors, too. In the past year, many programs have made the testing process optional, so the future of MBA standardized testing is a bit fuzzy.

For now, it’s best to think about taking a standardized test in your final year of college when your test taking skills are their sharpest. It may help you compete for admission and scholarships.

Misperception #3: MBA programs are expensive.

Yes, the cost is not negligible; however, many programs offer generous scholarships. And most candidates will experience bumps in salaries during or after completing the MBA. The typical candidate sees a return on their investment in 2 to 4 years and a lifetime of increased earnings.

I hope this knowledge about common myths and misconceptions surrounding the MBA arms you with one more option to consider for your future. As you begin your college experience, I encourage you to keep your goals beyond graduation top of mind and allow those goals to drive your decision making the next few years.

Now is the best time to be open to new opportunities and explore the unfamiliar. And you never know – perhaps the future will find you at Georgia Tech, achieving your goals as an MBA.

Dr. Katie Lloyd joined Georgia Tech’s Scheller College of Business in 2016. Bringing more than 20 years in graduate management education to Tech, Katie leads the Full-time and Evening MBA Programs as Associate Dean. She oversees all recruitment, admissions, and student experience efforts for these MBA programs. Katie is passionate about fostering a diverse, inclusive, and collaborative environment in which students and team members can reach their full potential. In addition to enjoying time with her husband and two children, Katie has been spending the last year learning how to paint.

College Admission Word Association

Listen to “College Word Association – Rick Clark” on Spreaker.

“It’s 7:20! Why are you still asleep?!” I say flipping on the lights and opening the blinds.

“My alarm didn’t go off,” mumbled my daughter from under three sheets and four stuffed animals.

“What?! I can see your clock says, ‘snooze!’”

Stuffed Animals

“I didn’t do that…”

“Whatever! Now you aren’t just lying in bed. You’re just straight up lying. You’re sleeping outside tonight, and the sun can be your alarm. Get up!” (You know. The way you talk to a child.)

I’m not saying I am proud of the threat to sleep outside, but I thought the lying pun was pretty good.

Word Association 

You, on the other hand, are not 10. And unless you are a ridiculous multi-tasker, you are not asleep. You are a high school student thinking about college, so don’t hit snooze here. Instead, flip on the lights, open the blinds, and let’s play a quick word association game.

(Do not skip this or skim down the page.) Write down, voice record, or type out the first three to five words or phrases that come to mind when you read or hear the word “college.” 

1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

Now (again, no skimming, skipping, or snoozing), ask one or two people you know who are either in college or who have graduated from college to give you five words and write those down.

OK. I’m going to trust you to stop reading here and complete the assignment.  Come back when you have your answers and those from the folks you talked to.

—————————

And We are back…

What did you get?

Having asked this question around the country in various cities and school communities, particularly when parents are in the room, the responses are usually extremely hopeful, relational, open, and life-giving. I see a lot of smiles and hear answers centering around friends, fun, travel, sports, and learning. 

Ok. Now I want you to write down or think quickly about the first three to five words or phrases that come to mind when you read or hear the words “college admission.”

1-

2-

3-

4-

5-

How do your answers compare?

The students and families I’ve spoken with typically come up with words like tests, stress, tuition, pressure, and deadlines.

Boo!! Who popped the balloon?! What happened to the fun, friends, growth, learning, freedom, and opportunity of college itself? My challenge to you (especially if you are a junior or sophomore just really starting to think about college) is to keep your answers as closely connected as possible. Here is how.

Change One Word.   

Traditionally, when journalists and college reps talk about admission, they describe it as a process. I want to push back on that concept. Take a minute and search Google Images for the word “process.” (Yes. I seriously want you to take out your phone and do this.)

So, what did you find?

Probably a lot of flow charts, cogs grinding together, and mechanical, sterile, linear graphics. Notice that almost none of them include other people– unless there is some lonely dude in a lab coat closely examining some colored liquid in a test tube.

If you think of all of this as a process, you begin to believe there is a specific and right way to go about it. Your mindset becomes linear or binary or zero sum. Process tightens you up and restricts you to a narrow path that you feel like you must follow perfectly in order to avoid disaster.

Process dictates each piece must fit perfectly and flow precisely from one thing to the next. And then life happens. You make a B+ instead of an A in that history class sophomore year; you don’t get elected president of the French Club; you tear your ACL and can’t play soccer on the travel team; the research project gets canceled; or I don’t know, let’s pick something arbitrary… say a global pandemic.

If this is a process, then you absolutely should or should not “do this the way your older sister did.” Process is filled with don’ts. Process is a tightrope. Process means if you miss a certain ingredient the recipe is a bust. There is absolutely no room for risk, variance, or divergence.

Now take a minute to search Google Images for “experiences.”

The College Admission Experience

What do you find? And how does it compare to “process?”

These images are more open, fluid, and relational. In these pictures you find people looking out over high places considering their options. They have vision, variety, perspective, and freedom. The people in these pictures are not trying to control each and every moment. In fact, they seem to be excited about the unknown as opportunity to explore, learn, and discover. There is no forgone conclusion, precise end result, perfect formula, or exact combination.

Experiences images are filled with boats in the water or bikes on the trail. Experiences facilitate relationships, inspire dreams, and account for a breadth of decisions, routes, choices, results, and destinations. It sure sounds like we are back to where we started with the answers to association with college.

The truth is that done well the college experience and the college admission experience should be more similar than different. Whether you are a junior, sophomore, or a parent supporting a high school student considering college, my hope is that you take time regularly to pause and check in to see if your five words associated with college and college admission are aligned or divergent. If stress, tests, control, and pressure creep in too much, it is a good sign you need to recalibrate and regain perspective.

How to do that? Might I suggest sleeping outside!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Light in the Darkness

Listen to “Episode 29: Light in the Darkness – Rick Clark” on Spreaker.

In the days following the attack on the U.S. Capitol, we have been inundated with social media posts, interviews, opinions, podcasts, and articles riddled with frustration, finger pointing, and fallout. News stories have aired everything from caustic political rhetoric to disconcerting details related to injuries, deaths, and arrests. At this point, hundreds of CEOs, presidents of boards, chancellors of universities and systems, and others in top positions of leadership have released statements condemning these events and expressing their outrage, sadness, and shock.

Simultaneously, we are watching the escalation of  diagnosed cases and hospitalizations related to Covid-19, and learning more about the threat of a new Covid strain. While the 24-hour news cycle would never tolerate succinctly summarizing the beginning of 2021, I think a fair and accurate word to use would be darkness.

Martin Luther King, Jr quoteIn stark contrast, admission officers are spending their days during this time reading essays, conducting interviews, and hearing stories each day from incredible high school students who are investing in their schools, families, and communities. While you would never know it, your descriptions of hopes, dreams, resolve, and purpose, and the indisputable evidence of your growth, resilience, and vision serve as precious gift. Sources of deep encouragement and optimism—or in a word: light.

My goal is to return the favor and provide you with some hope and encouragement.

As a high school student:

As 2021 kicks off and you head back to class, I hope you continue to pour yourself into your sports, clubs, activities, and work. If there were ever a time to dig in and contribute, it’s now. Make something around you fundamentally better this semester.

On college admission panels and during presentations people inevitably ask what we are “looking for.” In most cases, I think they expect us to rattle off some kind of formula that includes five AP classes, at least one award in the junior year, and sustained volunteer work. The truth is admission officers are looking for applicants who have been good students inside and outside the classroom in high school.  Simply put they want to admit and enroll people who will be deeply missed by their school and community when they graduate.

Take some time in the week ahead to thank those who have helped you and supported you along the way. Email your fourth-grade teacher, go for a walk with your little sister, send a note to your ninth-grade science teacher, and as always, hug your mama. Everyone could use some more light in their life right now. Embrace that opportunity.

I also hope you: practice listening; worry less about what people think about you; break out of any cliques or relationships you know are not healthy; be disciplined enough to intentionally put your phone away for specified times each day and week; and start each morning contemplating at least one thing you are grateful for in your life.

As a college applicant:

I hope you are confident enough to consider the opinions of others but think for yourself.

I hope you figure out why you are going to college and ask the questions that really matter to you along the way.

I hope you wait well. Concern yourself more with preparing for college in general than obsessing about the internal machinations and committee deliberations of any particular college.

I hope you will not use the term “top” or “first choice.”  Don’t take an offer of admission for granted, and instead enthusiastically celebrate each one as an exciting option and opportunity.

I hope you remember college admission decisions are not character judgments or predictions of future potential. Getting in, or not getting in, to a particular school does not change who you are, the feasibility of your goals, or define you in a substantive way.

I hope you will be humble and selfless enough to celebrate your friends in their successes and comfort them in their disappointment.

I hope you are proactive in initiating critical conversations with your family about uncomfortable topics like paying for college, loans, distance from home, your major of choice, and colleges you do and do not want to apply to or attend. I hope as a result of those courageous dialogues you and your family will be able to make a unified decision devoid of ego and rooted in authenticity.

I hope you are cognizant of what and how you post on social media related to your college applications and decisions.

I hope your ultimate college choice will be based on an authentic internal compass, rather than on external pressures or commercialized rankings.

Continue to Be A Light 

For some reason people tend to think of the actual college experience and the college admission experience as separate entities. The truth is the two are closely linked.

They are both about developing critical thinking skills, seeing a bigger picture, seeking diverse voices, researching information, being comfortable with some gray and unknowns, weighing options, questioning data, understanding historical context, and keeping a broad (ideally global) perspective.

In a time of division, disruption, and disillusionment, thank you for helping those of us working in college counseling and admission, to see evidence of unity, progress, and hope. Ultimately, as a high school student, a college applicant, and both into and beyond your college years, I hope you will continue to be a light.