Wednesday, March 27, 2019

A Few Reminders as College Decisions Come Out

By:  Patrick O'Connor  Ph.D

This is the week students hear from the rest of their colleges.  Since these colleges include

the Ivy League schools, this week gets a lot of attention from the press and parents, which can lead to a rise in the anxiety levels of most students.

The best way we can support students through this challenging time is to remind them of three things, and remind ourselves of three things.  First, for the students:

It’s a college decision, not a character indictment  It’s always easy for someone else to tell you not to take a college decision personally—after all, this isn’t about them.  But the truth is, ninety percent of the students who apply to a college could do great work there; it’s just that these colleges run out of room before they run out of great students.  If they said no, that’s their loss, not yours, because…

Every college you applied to is a first choice  You may have ended up liking one college more than the others you applied to, but that doesn’t make the others a second choice.  You did your research, liked what you saw, and know you can do great things at all of them.  As long as some of them said yes, you have the privilege—the privilege—of choosing among great options.

You can keep looking  More than a few students get to April and feel the need to start over.  The National Association for College Counseling has a College Opening Update will be up soon—most likely early May—so you can see what colleges are still officially taking students.  If you can’t wait that long, call the college and ask.

For those of us working with students:

Cast the net far and wide  You won’t have to look hard for the students who are elated with their college choices—they’re the ones wearing the Exact. Same. College. Swag. Every day from now until graduation.  The harder search are the students who aren’t happy with their choices who have given up on themselves, who think bothering to ask for help is pointless.  Alert your teachers and administrators to look out for seniors who have a sudden change in temperament, either more quiet or more outgoing than usual.  Chances are, something’s up with them.

Get ready to work the numbers  This week’s joy will become mightily muted for some of your students, as they eventually get past the first page of the acceptance letter, and peek at the financial aid offerings for the first time.  Aid offers are hard to read, and some families just won’t call financial aid offices no matter what.  Be ready to check in with the students who are likely aid candidates, and get ready to make some calls.  It’s best if Mom and Dad do it, but they’ll probably need help. 

Avoid the trap of May 1 There’s a movement underway to celebrate the college achievements of all high school seniors on May 1, the day many colleges ask students to send in an enrollment deposit to one—and only one—college.  There’s nothing like a good celebration, but May 1 isn’t the end of the college search season for many, many, MANY students—especially students attending community colleges or public universities, or students whose financial aid packages are still up in the air. If you have lots of students who fill this bill, consider moving the celebration to later in the month, or build it in as part of graduation.  The goal is to celebrate everyone, and May 1 may be too soon to do that.

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