Your place in their class

Cassia, one of our community organizers in Newton, Massachusetts, shared this Harvard Crimson Op-Ed, Flipping the Script on College Acceptance. Penned by Harrison Satcher, a Harvard sophomore, he sets out to argue in favor of affirmative action within college admissions. But in doing so, he also lays out why colleges’ efforts to put together the best class—the combination of achievements, backgrounds, and perspectives—is not designed or intended to validate or invalidate any one particular applicant.

“For those in the application process now, remember: It is understandably easy to confuse something that is competitive with it being selectively validating. When the stakes are high, it is easy to confuse ‘accepted’ with ‘worthy’. Yet, college admissions officers cannot validate your existence or your accomplishments. None claim to do so, either. Thankfully, this also means they cannot invalidate these things. Admissions officers are there to build communities, not to sanctify individuals. You are so much more than what you’ve placed on your applications, anyways. There is a place for you out there, and take pride in the fact that your presence there will be valuable in creating a community of diverse voices.”

The cynic might respond, “Well, it’s easy for him to say that. He already got into Harvard.”

But I think the fact that Satcher currently roams the Harvard hallways gives his argument even stronger legs. He appreciates the opportunities that are available to him. But he also recognizes that attending Harvard doesn’t necessarily make him smarter, better, or more likely to succeed than other hardworking, curious, interesting students, wherever they go to college.

So remember, while a no from your dream college can feel like a bitterly personal decision, colleges aren’t in the business of deciding whether one applicant is or isn’t worthy. They’re assembling a class, not validating or invalidating individual applicants.

As you make your way through the process, remember that whatever you have to contribute, there’s a college out there waiting for you to take your place in their class. You just have to look for and find it.