With many colleges releasing early admissions decisions (MIT will drop their decisions on 12/13/14 at 15:16), seniors are creating more parallel universes than the Matrix movies combined. This "what if" game is so intense, it's easy to think you'll know all about your future life, once the college says yea, nay, or maybe.
And that is absolutely wrong.
Applying to college isn't easy, especially when you're still on two sports teams, taking demanding classes, and preparing for your last Winter Concert. But all the applications you completed, letters of recommendation you tracked down, and essays you wrote (by yourself--right?) are designed for one purpose only--to help a college decide if they should admit you. When it comes to other parts of your life, a college decision tells you absolutely nothing about:
Succeeding at that college Most colleges are receiving more applications than ever before--so many that they can't say yes to every qualified student. If you hear from a college this week and they deny or defer you, it doesn't mean they don't want you; it means that, like a good restaurant, they have more people that want to partake than they have space. That has nothing to do with you.
If a college admits you this week, it means they think you *can* do the work--but nothing's guaranteed. Getting in is time to celebrate, but not time to put your feet up; use the rest of high school to take your academic game to another level.
Your ability to have a happy life I could pull out data from studies showing where you go to college has nothing to do with average income, career achievement, or life satisfaction--but numbers just aren't that comforting right now. Instead, think back to a time in life when you didn't get something you really wanted. It was disappointing, it hurt, and for a while, you weren't sure what you were going to do. You then found Plan B, and realized that the opportunities it brought were just as good--or better--than what you had hoped Plan A would bring. If a college tells you no this week, Plan B awaits.
Your value as a person This is the time of year when we believe, more than ever, that the right "stuff" will make us a complete person. When you see ads with people thrilled to get the latest smartphone, automatic vacuum cleaner, or big screen TV that's larger than a school bus, you can't help but wonder why we just don't buy one for everybody, since that is clearly the key to world peace.
But stuff doesn't do that--and neither does a college decision. A yes from a college doesn't make you somebody; the work you put into earn that yes did that. A no from a college doesn't make you nobody; that happens when you decide their denial is a character indictment, instead of an opportunity to build a great life at another school.
Either way, your worth isn't waiting in an e-mail that's going to drop on 12/13/14 at 15:16 o'clock. Your worth is within you, and it isn't waiting for much of anything, other than your recognition of its existence.
Applying to college is a big deal, and there are a lot of people who love you for who you are. They hope it all works out for you when college decisions are announced. Whether it works out or not, they'll still love you for who you are.
I'm really hoping one of those people is you.