Bests and worsts

The arrival of college decisions is a mixture of the best and worst of times. All the work, all the tension, all the drama and waiting and hoping comes to a close with a yes, a no, or in the case of waitlisted students, a non-committal maybe.

Some students will be overcome with joy about their outcomes. They’ll take to social media to share their news and their emotions. Others will shed tears, finding it difficult to imagine themselves at any other place than the one that just told them it wasn’t meant to be.

These reactions are the best and worst of college admissions outcomes. Best and worst are at opposite ends of a very long spectrum. Best and worst are not normal. They are the extremes.

It would be easy for younger students to view all of this as the standard college application experience, to believe that all the angst and eventual victory or defeat are what they’ll need to steel themselves for soon. Please don’t make that assumption.

The truth is that the best and worst of anything gets disproportionate attention. Plenty of students apply to a reasonable number of realistic colleges and subsequently enjoy plenty of good news without all the tension and high stakes.

Plenty of students apply to a list of colleges without a clear first choice.

Plenty of students bounce back nearly immediately from their denials and instead choose to focus on the schools that said yes.

And plenty of students view their acceptances as exactly what they are—exciting and worthy of celebration, but ultimately just the beginning of an experience that will have plenty of future bests and worsts of its own.

Don’t assume that any other senior’s experience will be reflective of your impending experience. You get to decide how to approach your college application process. As you observe the seniors reacting, as you hear their tales of the journey that led them to this point, consider if that’s an experience you’d like to duplicate. Not just the outcome, but the work and stress and emotion that led to it.

Your college admissions experience is an important time in your life. Make a conscious choice about how to spend it and you’ll have a lot more bests than worsts.