The Waiting Game: What to Remember Every Time the Mail Comes In

March 17, 2015

For many high school seniors, it's starting: the long wait to find out whether they got into their dream school — or whether they didn't. Here's something to keep in mind, regardless of which envelope comes in the mail.

Spring brings with it many joys: longer days, warmer weather, and, for many high school seniors (and their families), a very heightened sense of anticipation. This is the season where all those hours spent researching, planning, and applying come to a head — and when they and their families work to figure out which school will be the best fit.

For a small minority of students, as Frank Bruni points out in The New York Times — an essay adapted from his new book, Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be: An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania — the process can escalate to the point of frenzy. But, he writes, it doesn't have to:

"For every person whose contentment comes from faithfully executing a predetermined script, there are at least 10 if not 100 who had to rearrange the pages and play a part they hadn’t expected to, in a theater they hadn’t envisioned. Besides, life is defined by setbacks, and success is determined by the ability to rebound from them. And there’s no single juncture, no one crossroads, on which everything hinges."

...the nature of a student’s college experience — the work that he or she puts into it, the self-examination that’s undertaken, the resourcefulness that’s honed — matters more than the name of the institution attended.

Getting into the Right School (For You)
With elite schools selecting a smaller and smaller percentage of students each year — coupled with tuition costs that seem to increase at an equal rate — finding a school that fits on every level (academic as well as emotional, social, and financial) can feel like an uphill battle. Especially for those who feel that getting into the "right" school must be achieved at all costs.

"...for too many parents and their children, acceptance by an elite institution isn’t just another challenge, just another goal," Bruni writes. "A yes or no from Amherst or the University of Virginia or the University of Chicago is seen as the conclusive measure of a young person’s worth, an incontestable harbinger of the accomplishments or disappointments to come. Winner or loser: This is when the judgment is made. This is the great, brutal culling. What madness. And what nonsense."

Winner or loser: This is when the judgment is made. This is the great, brutal culling. What madness. And what nonsense.

Focusing on the True Purpose of a College Education
The "madness" Bruni refers to is what can happen when students (and/or their families) attempt to mold themselves to fit the image projected by their chosen school, rather than flipping that picture around and focusing on finding the school that can best serve and foster the student's interests, passions, and dreams.

By profiling the experiences of three past and present high school seniors — and providing statistics to back those experiences up — Bruni sledgehammers open the cracks in the illusion: that being accepted to the "right" institution will set the course to then live the "right" life. What Bruni points out is that there are as many right roads to students finding, creating, and living their best lives as there are students.

"...the nature of a student’s college experience — the work that he or she puts into it, the self-examination that’s undertaken, the resourcefulness that’s honed — matters more than the name of the institution attended," Bruni writes. "In fact students at institutions with less hallowed names sometimes demand more of those places and of themselves. Freed from a focus on the packaging of their education, they get to the meat of it."


Discover More About the College Process
Read the rest of Frank Bruni's piece in the New York Times, or check out his new book, “Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be: An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania.” Also be sure to check out this companion blog post, which champions the article from the perspective of a parent.

By Lisa Merlini

Tag: Exploring Education

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