Anyone who tells you that the college admissions process doesn’t involve at least some anxiety and effort probably applied to an open-admit school. Everyone else accepts a risk, no matter how slight, of rejection.
Putting yourself out there can be scary. The most constructive way to mitigate that fear and risk is to make sure you meet the highest academic, extracurricular, and testing standards of the institution to which you seek admission. In fact, treating the college application project as a transformational journey designed to clarify your goals for life after high school graduation is the smartest way to approach this crucible. Yet, when all is said and done, your best may not be good enough. My insightful friend and colleague Aly Beaumont has a lot to say about how The Admissions Process Is Not Necessarily About You!
At this time of year, social media is filled with posts of X kid with XY stats who did not get into Z college. Ivy day is a blood bath because, hello, the HUGE majority of kids do not get accepted to these colleges. Harvard’s acceptance rate last year was 3%, and more colleges than ever before colleges have acceptance rates that are in the single digits. Kids are asking, “What more could I have done?”. We have spent a lot of time talking about all the things students can do to help their chances of admission to highly selective colleges. Today we are going to say that after you have done all of those things, studied hard in rigorous courses, participated in activities you felt passionate about, worked to be helpful to others you care about, spent time preparing good applications, studying for, and excelling at your standardized tests, the answer is NOTHING. Yes, I said nothing. It is time to cut yourself a break and realize this is not all about you.
Who is the application also about? Obviously, everything comes down to the schools themselves. Every college and university has its own specific institutional priorities which may or may not align with what you might offer as a student, and that’s nobody’s fault. You may be offering the best loaf of bread ever baked, but someone gluten-free might pass it up regardless.
Pay attention not just to what the schools you are applying to say they want, but what they have shown over and over again that they reward in candidates. At the same time, don’t change yourself to fit a profile for any institution. Who gets accepted may be about both students and colleges, but your personal development and happiness is, unlike the admissions process, all about you!