Hurry Up, Wait And Fail

Many high school seniors are feverishly completing their admissions applications in preparation for Early Action or Early Decision deadlines.  Most of our students have been working on their essays and applications since June.  They have worked hard over the past year or two to visit and narrow down their list of schools, take the SAT and ACT, and complete all the requisite requirements for admission.  Once they hit submit, they will feel a sense of relief…for a few minutes. 

But then, students – and their parents – realize there is nothing more they can do.  It’s at this point that they must cede all control over admissions decisions to other people, namely college admissions officers, whom they’ve never even met.  This complete lack of control is unnerving for most families.  After all of the time and effort they’ve put in to the process, there is nothing left to do but wait.

But wait they will, some longer than others.  For students who’ve applied ED or EA, the decisions will come in December or early January, which isn’t so bad, but the vast majority of students will wait until March or early April for their decisions. 

Although this is difficult, students must understand this as an important life lesson.  There is so much of our lives we cannot control, but the only thing we do have power over is our response to our circumstances.  This is a powerful lesson.  If Johnny doesn’t get admitted to the college of his dreams, he could cry, whine, sulk, and contact the admissions office demanding an answer why (usually, its parents who behave in this manner)…OR, he could accept the decision, and move on, focusing on another of his options.  He has the choice.

One of my parents recently told me that if his very talented son did not get admitted to ALL of his chosen schools – most of which were Ivy League colleges – it would be the only time in his life that he had failed.  This talented young man won varsity letters in three sports in high school, started at quarterback on the football team, maintained a 4.0 GPA in very challenging classes, and scored a 33 on the ACT.  On top of that, he was one of the most polite young men I’ve ever met…and yet, he had never failed at anything.  Perhaps, I thought to myself, this failure will be a good thing for this student.

So when the thin envelopes outnumber the thick ones, please remember that failure should always be an option, because failure is an important part of life, and learning how to fail – and rebound from it – is exactly what we should be teaching our young people.