by Neil Chyten
Year after year, the day that students receive their dream school decisions is one that is filled with tears; whether they are tears of joy or sadness is the critical question. Even for those of us who have been through this experience thousands of times, this 30-day window during which colleges announce their decisions is fraught with emotion
As we enter the final week of March, 2021, hundreds of colleges have already released their class of 2025 admission decisions. Of those generally considered to be in the top tier, MIT, Georgia Tech, Johns Hopkins, Caltech, Swarthmore, Skidmore, and U Chicago are the biggest names that have already released. Chances are that all the other top schools on your list are working diligently to get through what is likely the largest number of applications they have ever received. All the Ivy League colleges will announce their decisions on April 6, which is referred to as “Ivy Day.” Most others will send out all the decisions in the last week of March. The last major college to announce will likely be Stanford, on April 9.
Year after year, the day that students receive their dream school decisions is one that is filled with tears; whether they are tears of joy or sadness is the critical question. If the first decision they receive is a rejection, there is a natural tendency to believe they are not going to get in anywhere. This can lead to fear and even bouts of depression. If they have created a smart college list that comprises at least a few safeties along with targets and reaches, there’s nothing to worry about. And if they did not get into their dream school this time, they will have more chances later. After one or two years, they can apply as transfer students. Furthermore, many students will go on to graduate school which provides yet another opportunity to apply to one of their dream schools.
Even for those of us who have been through this experience thousands of times, this 30-day window during which colleges announce their decisions is fraught with emotion. My colleagues and I cannot help but feel proud and gleeful when acceptances come in one after another, and sympathy when our students hopes and dreams are met with disappointment. The truth is that not everyone can get into Harvard or MIT. But a parallel truth is that there are so many great colleges out there. If there is disappointment, it typically derives from the fact that so many students want to go to the same “brand-name” college. Clearly, this is not possible. However, it is highly likely that virtually all hard working, diligent students will get into a great college, the right college, assuming they have the right combination of admission factors.
But let’s get real. If a parent wants to purport that Carnegie Mellon, Georgetown, Georgia Tech, Wash U in St. Louis, Cornell, UC Berkeley, U Michigan, Rice, Harvey Mudd, and Pomona are second-rate colleges, then that conversation is going to be over pretty quickly. And yes, I have faced this attitude among parents who are singularly focused on Harvard, MIT, and Stanford. Every one of these colleges is perfect for some, though not all, students. Many of these colleges are ranked in the top two or three in particular areas of study. So, the quicker we get away from a focus on just a few colleges, and focus on best fit colleges, the better.
The truth is that I have had the privilege of helping a significant number of students get into all of these top colleges. I have the greatest respect for my students, and other students, who have been able to turn their intelligence, hard work, and talents into successful admission at some of the best schools in the world. However, it is unrealistic and dishonest to imply that every student can get into their number-one choice, their “dream school.” If that were the case, then we would have to change the terminology from “reach school” to “sure bet.”
So, my advice is just to do your best and be happy with the choices that come about as a result. If you didn’t get into your dream school, then work hard and try again in a year. Meanwhile, be proud of the fact that your efforts over the past four years of your life have put you in a position to even apply to this caliber of school. That alone put you in an elite category of students. Never look back with regret, only look forward with the promise of a successful future.