Learn from this time

Now that most seniors have sifted through their acceptances and decided where they’ll be attending college next fall, underclassmen have an important opportunity to learn from this time.

Sure, you’ve heard and witnessed drama that preceded this time. The relentless focus on college. The throes of application season during the fall. The anguish and the joy that came with admissions decisions. It’s enough to make most underclassmen and their parents steel themselves from this anxious rite of passage they’ll inevitably have to survive like those who came before.

But does all that anxiety, tension and drama seem necessary in retrospect compared to how those seniors are feeling today?

My guess is that you’ve seen it all dissipate as it is replaced by pride and relief. Seniors are smiling again. They’re imagining themselves on their college campuses this fall. They’re virtually meeting their future classmates in the social media groups. They’re donning sweatshirts bearing the names of their future colleges, looking forward to what comes next after high school, and most importantly, enjoying the relief and anticipation that comes with life as an official college-freshman-to-be.

The nearly universal positivity you see now isn’t because everyone got into their dream colleges (which they did not). It’s happening because going to college is exciting. That feeling may once have been linked to a particular dream college the student wanted to attend. But it’s been replaced by the reality of knowing which college—original dream school or not—the student will attend. The forthcoming learning and fun and opportunity is no longer just a hypothetical exercise. It’s actually going to happen.

Freshman, sophomore, and junior families, you may fall prey to admissions anxiety as you progress through your own college search and application process. When everyone else is behaving as if one grade, test score, or decision to attend a particular school is a defining event, it’s difficult not to inhale the secondhand smoke of their artificially high stakes.

If you feel that happening, remember this group of seniors today. They aren’t an aberration; they’re the norm. This is how the college application story ends for most students.

So when you see, hear, or experience admissions anxiety in the future, remind those you care about how this story ends. You’ll be a wiser, happier, more successful college applicant if you learn from this time.