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Three Things That Aren’t True About College Admissions

As decisions and commitments roll out, it is easy for students to get bogged down in the emotion of the moment - something that can linger throughout the summer and into their Freshman year. ESM Prep College Counselor Stuart Easton talks about the most important aspects of processing everything to ensure that your student’s mindset remains positive.

As the college application process winds down, results roll in, and students go through the process of choosing their path, a common theme often emerges.

After months of stress and years of achievement, a lot of students find themselves facing the reality that all the hard work has led to. No matter whether this is filled with excitement or disappointment, fear or joy, there are three common misconceptions that can keep students from seeing the forest for the trees.

1. Rejection Isn’t Failure

Of everything that students have to deal with, this is often the toughest for them to grasp.

You can talk about pro athletes who fail more than they succeed, but stay resilient; you can talk about entrepreneurs who crash and burn countless times before breaking through; you can talk about celebrities who slept on couches before their big break, but the fact of the matter is that rejection is really difficult to deal with. Especially when you have poured your heart and soul into an application.

Oftentimes, no matter what the results, students can be hung up on their rejections more than their acceptances. This can be an ultimately paralyzing feeling that prevents them from moving on with their journey.

Ultimately, then, the key to unlocking the right mentality is to be sure not to label rejection as failure. To understand that there is no acceptance without rejection, there is no college application process without rejection. No matter what list you had and how your application looked, there is a good chance that if you aren’t rejected from somewhere then you weren’t ambitious enough.

Furthermore, a rejection isn’t a school telling you that you aren’t good enough. Rather, it’s a school telling you that you aren’t right for each other. If you think of it like dating, two good people can not work out for no other reason than they aren’t right for each other.

Not being right for another person (or school, in this case!) doesn’t mean that you are worse than the others who did end up being the right fit. It’s ok for rejection to hurt, but making sure you don’t internalize it as a referendum on your future is essential.

2. Social Media Isn’t Reality

At the risk of being the “old man yells at cloud” meme, this is another crucial part of having a positive experience when it comes to college decisions.

When scrolling through social media, there is likely going to be a constant stream of jubilant posts, proud parents, touching stories about dreams come true, and, thanks to those targeted ads and algorithms, plenty of posts from the dream colleges you’ve been googling for the last twelve months.

Seeing all of this can feel like a party where you are on the outside looking in, or can feel like an opportunity for you to get all of the external validation you deserve for the school you’ve gotten into.

Either way, it is almost always necessary to remind yourself that social media isn’t reality. In almost all cases, people don’t share the difficult moments. It’s important to tell yourself, out loud and directly, that the stream of posts you do end up seeing does not capture the truth in the experiences nor the actual temperature of your peers.

In other words, looking at admission data, there is a large part of the proverbial iceberg that is underwater and will never be shared. It involves the rejections, the waitlists, the confusion, the late nights, the long conversations.

Celebrating yourself or others is a natural part of the process, but remembering that the information flowing out of your screen is not a representation of the cycle as a whole is important to making sure you stay grounded throughout the process.

3. Decision Day isn’t Final

After months of applying and years of working, decisions and commitments can feel like the end of a long journey.

And while that is true, something more important is that fact that the next path forward will contain just as many twists and turns along the way. Whether you are going to your dream school or you have ended up somewhere you didn’t envision yourself, the world of college is just starting to open, not close.

Although commitment can feel like confinement—limiting yourself to a single option—the truth is much different. Through transfers, major switches, clubs, internships, friendships, and professors, there are going to be countless opportunities for your journey to continue to be defined. However you feel entering the end of high school and the beginning of college, it is essential to make sure that your mindset is focused on the opening of possibilities and not resigning yourself to the fate you feel like you have been handed by the final decision.

Ultimately, applying to college is about taking the next step in your life, and taking it in the right direction. No matter where you are going and how you feel about it, this next step is one of many left for you to take. Moving forward with a clear conscience and a drive to continue in the best direction for you is what makes for the most successful transition.