T.S. Eliot writes that April is the cruelest month, but December – if you’re a high school senior – might be a close second. Amidst all the good news of Early Action and Early Decision notices, there’s plenty of disappointment, whether it’s because of deferrals or rejections.
This month, I’m cheering, along with many of my clients, who got ED/EA acceptances from Harvard, Yale, Brown, Barnard, Dartmouth, Vanderbilt, Wake Forest, UT Austin and UI Bloomington. I worked with them on everything from their Common App essays, exclusively, to supplements that were 200 characters (not words!) long. We brainstormed so that they could pick topics that best revealed who they were to the admissions committee, and I asked them to answer a series of questions that would bring their story to the page, in their own words.
It’s important to note: Their essays didn’t “get them” into these colleges. They were all excellent students whose stellar academic records preceded them. Their essays helped them fill out the picture of who they were, and enabled them to present their interests and talents to the admissions officers as persuasively as possible.
As you grapple with moving forward in the next ten days, try not to take deferrals and rejections to heart, difficult as that is. Keep in mind:
There are half a dozen factors that go into the decisions that colleges make about whom to admit, both EA/ED and regular decision. Many decisions have little or nothing to do with the quality of the applicant because there are so many hyper-qualified students applying to so many colleges. In many cases, colleges are overwhelmed with hyper-qualified kids to choose from. A student who doesn’t have the grades, scores and recommendations to do the work won’t get in, but other factors, including geography, legacy, and athletic and other special talents, frequently come into play. Colleges usually want students from all 50 states and a good number of countries. An outstanding student in Wyoming is competing with fewer students than the plethora of outstanding students in California and New York.
If you’re a top student with a rejection from a top university, the decision may have more to do with where you live than with anything else, i.e. they’ve filled their quota of top students from Chicago.
If you’re not sure anymore about your Common App essay, you can revise it.
If you’re wondering how to get through a pile of supplements with all kinds of head-scratching questions (Write your future roommate a letter; Write a description of a flash course you’d teach at UVA; Pick a person or a character from literature and tell us what you’d talk about), consider sending me an email for some guidance: Liz@DontSweatTheEssay.com