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March Madness: Navigating College Acceptances and Rejections

We're in that final countdown--those last couple of days/weeks before you the moment of truth--whether or not your dream school gives you the word "congratulations" in a letter. It's an arduous time, and a confusing time--what happens after you open the letter, and it's not what you want it to say? Or what if it does say what you hoped it would say? What comes next? 


A lot of people will say, hey, the name doesn’t matter; it doesn’t really matter what college you go to, more often than not you get the same education. The thing is, what college you get into does matter, if not in terms of the name, then in terms of what it meant to you; it’s okay to be worried or anxious, because you’ve been working towards something for so long, and you care about whether or not you succeeded. If you get in, it’s perfectly okay to be proud and delighted, and if you don’t get in, it’s perfectly okay to be sad and disappointed.


So...if you get accepted: congratulations!



It’s awesome that your hard work has paid off, and you definitely deserve a break! But the home stretch from now until May or June happens to be when a lot of ecstatic seniors decide (erroneously) that summer vacation has come early, and all in the world has come to a stop.


Your admission to college is contingent on continued academic proficiency; you don’t need to get all As, but if you suddenly begin pulling straight Cs, then you could end up losing a scholarship or an admittance.


Do not let this happen to your grades:

It’s okay to relax, but know that delayed gratification is almost always better: you have at least two months of summer vacation to party all you want, and trust me, it will be far more enjoyable than just tossing all your homework in the trash.


If you’re rejected:


Rejections can be tough, and if you were quite confident about your application and your interview, it can be especially hard to reconcile the two situations. Most people are inclined to wonder “why?” or simply decide that they just weren’t good enough. The thing is, that’s probably not the case. The admissions office sees many times more applications than students they can admit, and chances are, a vast majority of the students deserve to be there, including you. But they’re thinking about what kind of class they’re trying to manufacture, and trying to make the best possible team ever, which includes as many unique individuals as possible. Maybe you’re a Monet of your own, but they’re currently looking for Pollacks and Picassos. It’s more likely that than the fact that you didn’t break 2300 or whatever on the SATs.


I really love it when the parents say, “Sweetie, if they don’t think you’re good enough for them, then they’re not good enough for you.” Or something of that type. It might seem kind of sour grapes, but it’s definitely okay in this situation, and it is okay to be upset and sour grapes the school. I’ve heard the, “I didn’t really want to go there anyways,” or “It wasn’t exactly my top choice,” or “I sent the application in for fun,” and I think that is a perfectly reasonable thing to do.



If you’re friend was recently rejected from a dream school, let them whine and moan about it for a bit. Don’t correct them by saying, “Hey, that was your dream school. You definitely wanted to go there.” It’s certainly not a big deal, and you’re not committing some form of cosmic justice by correcting them. It is a sad thing to be rejected, and some  recover better than others.


If you’re in the applied to college together, but only one got in mode:


I know, it sucks. But the GIF is from one of my favorite movies: Sissi. It’s German, but I’m sure there are English subtitles somewhere. It’s about Empress Elisabeth of Austria, and is a romantic fictionalized chapter of history...anyways. Back to the point. This is an unfortunate situation, and has caused great tension in some friendships (I myself have experienced this.)


Things often become competitive, and everything gets to be a sort of race, because one of you guys feels left behind, and the other might begin to feel the need to prove themselves better in order to justify the results. It’s really not necessary, given that the admissions process isn’t a computer algorithm, and is thus not exactly predictable. Maybe your friend seemed a better fit, or maybe the SAT points really did make a difference. Who knows? Either way, it’s important to be confident in yourself, and not start a competition, or further the competition.


If you’re concerned for your friendship, don’t worry! You’ll legitimately still get to be great friends after college. Sure, it probably won’t be possible to have a weekly brunches together and whatnot, but we live in the age of all forms of communication; you can phone them, text them, facetime them, IM them, and in the near future, probably teleport over to them briefly.


If you’ve been waitlisted…


A friend of mine always said that being waitlisted was worse than being rejected, because it means that you almost, almost, almost got in. But you didn’t. And because it gives you an ounce of hope that you might still get in, when waitlist chances are honestly, quite slim generally speaking.  I’m afraid I am devoid of good advice here...the best thing you can do is decide for yourself. Easiest case: you are already satisfied with your current situation, then you can take yourself off the waitlist. If not, then patience is really the only thing you’re going to need. Being waitlisted literally is a waiting game, so meanwhile, you should pretend that you’ve been rejected, and make your decisions accordingly.

Take a deep breath...everything is going to be great, no matter what.


Amy Zhao

Harvard '18

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