What I Have Learned From the College Admissions Process

If you happen to be entering your senior year of high school, first I'd like to say, congratulations and I am sorry.

College admissions posts tell many applicants to "be yourself," which is probably the single worst piece of advice along with "have fun." You will probably receive the unhelpful "have fun" comment and then will be asked to write about a roadblock in your life in your admissions essay. Have fun but not too much fun.

Here is what I have learned from this recent period in my life, when numbers in SAT and GPAs haunted me far more than any assemblage of letters and words (with the exception of "We regret to inform you...").

1. You are not in control of anything. This is one of those adages that never quite makes any sense until you are in a situation that sometimes, unbeknownst to you, you do not have a morsel of control over the outcome. I mistakingly thought that by grossly obsessing over my grades and test scores, I would have complete authority (or rather "dominion" to connote my soft, but not overbearing presence) over the decisions of college admissions officers. This outlook however, is incorrect and should be immediately abandoned, for it only results in a great deal of frustration and disappointment rather than the predictability imagined.

2. Regretfully, there are no guarantees. Bouncing off the last idea of the deficit of predictability that this entire college admissions process wages, is the idea that there are no guarantees. These guarantees refer to the high school student's meritocratic idea that by achieving a certain GPA and SAT scores, one is immune to rejection. A 98% chance on Naviance that you will be admitted to a particular college holds a rather empty promise. This, of course, is not to say that one should abandon all hope completely or that all college admissions processes are rigged, it is only to say that there are no absolutes and complete certainty into the roulette-like mambo that is the college admissions process, and what I imagine to be, the dark closed doors where the purveyors of this process convene.

3. Lesser qualified people will be admitted and you will not be. And it is ok. This is perhaps the thing that frustrated me the most about the entire college admissions process, the arbitrary fashion in which I perceived it to be conducted and the seemingly skewed values of these arbiters. I reckon that more guidance and energy should be invested in telling high school students that there will inevitably be a lesser qualified individual who is admitted into a particular college for reasons that are unclear to everyone including the accepted, rather than essay writing instruction. This process commenced my spiral into a necessary but transient stage of disillusionment. Small rejections are only preparation for the fabled and distant "real world" where hard work does not always result in instant gratification and merit, because the reaping of hard work is not immediate, nor embossed in gold.

4. Rejections are not personal. This is a truth that begs constant repeating. Rejection letters are not rejections of the applicant, they are rejections of the piece (or pieces) of paper that we are conditioned to believe is an accurate representation of a person's achievements and worth. Would you really want your life to be packed into a 8.5 by 11 inch paper?

5. People will take to social media. And it is very annoying. When college acceptance letters rear their heads into the homes of seniors across the nation in March, their impending Facebook statuses, tweet and Instagram, will hinge on the "Congratulations!" of a college acceptance letter. If, however, the letter deviates from said "Congratulations!" and contains the words "waitlist" or "regret," the chance of disclosing this information is small. This form of humblebragging and hastags that read #blessed and #humbled, albeit irksome, are only reminders that everything will be okay. You may not have gotten into the same college as someone else, or even your top school or "dream" college for that matter. But I can assure you, the path to what we believe to be success, and happiness is not linear, and you are exactly where you need to be. But I also can assure you this, like all things we wish we knew earlier, the latter statement will make no sense until long after this process is over.

6. We are all average. I think the key to embracing rejection and failure, and even sometimes acceptance is realizing that not all of us are destined to do and be profound. This may seem like a dreary and bleak truth, but in fact, it is rather liberating. Not everyone needs to go to a top rated liberal arts college, a college where less than a third of applicants are admitted, or even go to college at all. Life does not begin or end with the educational institution you have been admitted to, rejected from, or chosen not to attend, because life is not easily defined and charted at all.

Now go forth and dismantle the modern day education system and the standards youth are beholden to! But first, try not taking everything so seriously.