Stand, Don’t Kneel, During the College Application Process

Crabby wants to reassure students, for once…

Ten thoughts during application season:

1. Minimize stress and anxiety by thinking of yourself as someone offering your talents and abilities to a number of institutions rather than as someone begging to be admitted to a secret, elite society.

2. Don’t be a supplicant, pleading on your knees for acceptance; be an applicant with a strong sense of who you are and what you want. Even if you’re not sure what those things may be, stand strong for yourself.

3. You are already OK as you are; you don’t need validation from a college or a university to be a great person. You are seeking a place where you can hone, expand, and strengthen yourself in many different ways, but the basics of who you are already ring true. If the college doesn’t understand that, or doesn’t recognize your qualities and goals, then it wasn’t the right place for you to begin with.

4. Say to yourself and to your chosen colleges, “Here’s what I have to offer. Take it or leave it. I’ll be fine no matter what” The saddest thing is to see students who feel they are worthless unless they are recognized by a particular institution.

5. Colleges need students as much as students want colleges. They have to fill their beds, so it’s not totally a one way street if you look carefully at the numbers. Look at acceptance rates and yield percentages as well as test score and GPA averages. Does a school with 23,000 applicants need you? Maybe one with 4,000 can see you more clearly.

6. Colleges are trying to build communities, not just accept individuals. Consider what you would bring to a given community and be sure you are clear about it with the colleges you apply to. Even if you don’t have heavy duty extracurriculars, how do you see yourself being part of dorm life, classroom discussions, the radio station or newspaper, or even the grounds crew? One of my gay students decided to apply to schools without large gay communities because he wanted to be able to “make a difference” on campus.

7. If you are looking at a school only for what it can do for you, then you may be looking at the wrong place. You’ll want to be an active participant, not a passive sponge.

8. Plenty (and I mean PLENTY) of jerks and losers attend and have attended Ivies and similar places. Don’t assume everyone is a genius or a brilliant prodigy or that Valhalla awaits you there. Nor will attending one of those institutions make you a better person if you already are a jerk or a loser. It will probably just exacerbate your worst sides. Sometimes, money, connections, and genetics talk louder than ability and accomplishment. In fact, probably more than any of us would like to think.

9. Don’t judge yourself by impossible standards, which also means don’t suddenly change the rules on yourself and trash your life up to now just because you now realize you should have taken Calculus BC Honors. You are who you are and your history is what it is. Change is always part of the future, and your eventual alma mater will change you in ways you can’t possibly know about now. Enjoy the ride–that’s what makes college fun.

10. You will more than likely be happy wherever you go, even if it wasn’t your first choice. After a while, you will probably forget that it wasn’t your first choice and wonder why you ever bothered applying to other schools in the first place. And if you’re not happy, you can always transfer.

The students I’ve worked with who have been happiest about the process and who seem to be the happiest at their schools are those who went into it all with a healthy combination of pride and humility, focus and flexibility, and a clear vision of a cloudy future. We can plan, but we can’t predict, our lives, and those who remain open to possibility usually come out the best. Enjoy!

I’ve posted these thoughts on my College Access Counseling FB page as well, where I also have some other tips and thoughts.

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About Will Dix

I am currently writing a book about college admission. I'm interested in the intersection of the college process and American culture. I attended Amherst College in the 1970s, taught high school English and theater at The Hill School in the '80s, returned to Amherst in the '90s as an admission dean, and began the '00s as a college counselor at the University of Chicago Laboratory School. I then joined Chicago Scholars as Program Director. Currently, I blog about college admission for Forbes.com. I also help community organizations serving low income students understand the college admission process so more students can consider gaining access to higher education. I have a few private college counseling clients that I take by referral only. The views expressed in this blog are mine alone.
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2 Responses to Stand, Don’t Kneel, During the College Application Process

  1. cscottnmmi says:

    Crabby, will be sharing your thoughts with my seniors! Keep on keeping on!

    Like

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