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A Letter to 12th Graders Receiving Notification From Colleges

Dear Seniors,

I want to take this opportunity to tell you that senioritis is NOT a real disease, nor is it in the DSM-IV (or whichever DSM we're on, now), and thus you should stop trying to use it as an excuse for not turning in your papers. Seriously? Get back to work!

What I really want to talk about is...colleges. Today is April 1st, and that means that--in what may seem like one giant, cruel April Fools' Day prank--you're receiving notification either now, within the past few days, or within the next few days, from all those schools to which you applied several months back.

I hope for each of you that you'll have an experience like this kid, and have a plethora of excellent options to choose from. (Way to go, kid. You worked your tail off, did everything you were supposed to, and now you get to reap the rewards! Like a boss!) However, the reality is that college acceptances not only hinge on awesomeness in the areas of grades, SATs, essays, extra-curricular activities, and recommendations (a lot of things to control as it is!)--they also hinge on dumb luck. Applicants who have done everything right sometimes get locked out of their top choice school just because a zillion other kids applied who all looked too similar on paper; on the flip-side, occasionally real long-shot candidates will get into surprising places, because some tiny detail of their application resonated with the admissions officer who was reading it.

It is, as my mom once told me when I was in the midst of my own application process, a "crapshoot." (I had to look that up too. No, it's not a curse word. This is what a crapshoot means.)

So, if you get into your top choice school (and can afford to attend), feliciaciones, pongezi, xin chuc mung (don't know how to make the right accents for that one), mazel tov, and good on you. But if you don't get into any of your top choice schools: First of all, I am so sorry--it is a really sucky feeling. And, I promise you are not the only person who cried in my classroom today. It happens to everyone sometimes. (Even me.)

Second, try to keep the following things in mind:

1) Any school is what you make of it. Join clubs. Research with professors. Connect with great people. Create your own opportunities by engaging with the community around you.

2) So, that really "prestige" school rejected you. Listen, it happens. There are worse things than being a big fish (i.e. a great student) in a smaller pond (i.e. a slightly less prestigious college), and riding that ticket all the way to graduate, law, or medical school.

3) If you don't like any of your options, wait a year--get a job, an internship, a volunteer position, take some community college classes--and apply again. You might have different results. You might be looking at different schools entirely.

4) If all else fails, transferring is an option.

5) But again--any situation is what you make of it. And you can make it great. I realize that is cold comfort right now, in the midst of what might be the biggest disappointment of your life so far. But there are opportunities in whichever situation you encounter. You just have to open yourself up to them.

Remember, none of this college acceptance game actually reflects on how amazing you are; you were already terrific before any of this happened, and will continue to be long after it has ceased to matter. And believe me when I tell you that it will cease to matter a lot sooner than you think.

That's all. Good luck out there with whatever you decide to do.

Sincerely Yours,
Ms. Garon (aka Ilana)

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