If I could pick one practice that most robs the joy from what should be the exciting time of applying to college for a family, it’s conditional celebration. Celebrating if the SAT score breaks a certain (arbitrary) barrier. Celebrating if the semester grades reach a certain numerical GPA. Celebrating if the dream school says yes. Conditional celebration turns the entire process into a competition defined by winning and losing.
The fix? Celebrate the certain.
A student is certain to submit their first college application. Celebrate it.
A student is certain to submit their final college application. Celebrate it.
A student is certain to be admitted to at least one college (provided that student applies to at least one counselor-approved safety school). Celebrate it.
Just because something is certain to occur doesn’t make it any less deserving of a celebration. If it did, nobody would celebrate birthdays, Thanksgiving, or the arrival of summer break.
In some communities of students without the right resources and support, those outcomes may not be so certain. What a great reminder for everyone that successfully preparing for, applying to, and getting into any college is worthy of celebration, no matter what your dream school says.
Celebrating certainties along the path to college isn’t arbitrarily injecting faux merriment into the process. It’s acknowledging that a teenager is getting closer to a life-impacting four years along the path to adulthood, an outcome they’ve worked to earn.
High stakes, judgment, and uncertainty don’t exactly make for happy times. It’s no wonder so many families look back on the admissions process as one filled with anxiety and dread. The fastest way to turn those feelings around is to identify the certain but still important eventualities for each student and to inject some well-deserved celebration.
Reject the conditional, embrace the certain, and let your celebrations begin.