For many seniors, this may or may not be “the most wonderful time of the year.” This week, EA and ED decisions are arriving in full force, creating high levels of stress, tension and yes, the occasional meltdown. You have to forgive us seniors, because our entire future is riding on the content of that one email from that one school…Just kidding! Even though it really does feel that way.
I’m not writing this as an outside voice to preach at you to “calm down,” because trust me, I’ve heard that phrase uttered nearly a thousand times over the past four months, and it is not helpful. The application process is stressful. You put your entire high school career, all your accomplishments, awards, grades and hopes, on the line and send it off to a group of anonymous admissions officers who make quick decisions that can either bring you immense joy or immense despair. This process is frustrating, and I know just how quickly tensions can boil over into an argument, whether that’s with friends or family. So my advice is simple:
Over break, when you have some time, sit down and read Frank Bruni’s “Where You Go is Not Who You’ll Be.”
It seems cliché. The first time my father gave the book to me, I thought he was being ridiculous– of course where I matriculate matters! But when I was feeling particularly frustrated the other night, I decided I would try to read at least a few pages. And, shockingly, I read the entire book in a night. Bruni is able to address the very real difficulties facing high school seniors who are thrust into the college admissions mania and soothe your fears.
The book centers around the notion that over the last few decades, Americans have turned college admissions into a terrifying and occasionally devastating process, starting with a conviction among too many young people that their futures will be determined and their worth established by which schools say yes, and which say no. Through statistics, surveys and the stories of successful people who didn’t attend the most exclusive schools, he demonstrates that many kinds of colleges– large public universities, tiny hideaways in the hinterlands– serve as ideal springboards. And he illuminates how to make the most of them.
So if you are admitted to a college this week, or in the coming weeks, rejoice. You have earned that symbol of all your hard work and dedication. Wear the college gear, update your Facebook status and tell your friends. You deserve to feel proud of yourself.
But if your decision came in a thinner envelope, don’t lose heart. Wherever you go, you will find incredible friends, interesting courses, meaningful opportunities, and at the end of four years you’ll almost definitely reflect that you wouldn’t have traded it for anything. Remember that where you go really isn’t who you’ll be.