On 9/11/2001, I was scheduled to speak at a National Charity League meeting that night. It was hard to imagine anyone being in the mood to talk about the minutia of how to get into college on that terrible day. Something about it just felt wrong.
But those kids forged ahead at the meeting. They conducted their usual business, turned it over to me, and then asked just as many questions as they always ask. They were just as interested and engaged as they always are. The parents and I were the shaken ones. These kids were ready to get down to business.
What they were doing was actually pretty admirable and mature. There wasn’t anything wrong with a student thinking about college on 9/11. The reality was that they still needed to go become whatever it was they were going to become. Their goals for the future had become even more important, not less.
Teenagers are remarkably resilient, especially with all-things-college-admissions (applications to NYU actually increased that same fall of 2001). It’s one of the benefits of being seventeen with your whole life in front of you. For students reading this, I know you might be sure that there is only one college on the planet where you could ever see yourself going. And all the talk about APs and SAT scores and how hard it is to get into college today probably makes you feel like the stakes are incredibly high. Just remember that you’re going to be fine. Not everybody gets into his or her first choice school. But every year, those kids bounce back fast. It’s hard not to as long as you’ve got other colleges to pick from.
And parents, remember that your kids might be even more resilient than you are when it comes to college matters. Don’t take that away from them. Don’t let your own college anxieties spill out and ruin the process for your family. Don’t make it all about whether or not Cornell says yes. Make it about raising a happy, nice kid who’s excited about her college future at whatever school is lucky enough to get her.