I would bet that the Class of 2010 seniors will be spending some time at their mailboxes and and checking email messages over the next few weeks. They will have plenty of company as seniors throughout the nation do precisely the same thing. With over 20 years of experience in higher education, I have some recommendations to share with you that I hope will prove helpful.
1. As colleges send out their admission decisions, you will likely receive some rejections. If you do, I urge you not to dwell on them. My Sicilian father had a saying that went something like this "You don’t want nobody that don’t want you!" Putting aside the poor grammar for now, this admittedly crude advice has some real relevance at this point in the admissions cycle. As one savvy undergraduate admissions director once wrote in an essay on how to handle rejection: "Your loss, baby." Regardless of whose words have more appeal to you, the message is the same. Don't lose sleep over the colleges that turn you down. Move on to the next step.
2. The next step is hard to do. Start off with a clean slate. After all your effort selecting, applying and waiting the colleges have responded! Your list of possibilities has appeared. Be it short or long, it represents the alternatives you have to choose from and choose you must! Every college on your list is now going to send you information, new admits are forming chat groups, student websites will light up with students who actually attend these places, and you are playing a whole new ball game!
3. Try to put aside everything you think you know about your colleges. Safety school? First choice? National reputation? Prestige? Selective? These labels were attached to your search and application process. Now you are in a different arena. And some very important things have changed. What you thought you knew can blind you to new opportunities. Now is the time to look at your colleges from the fresh perspective of an admitted applicant.
4. Now for my very best advice. Try and visit the schools that send acceptances and view each one with new eyes. Even if you visited once before, it is important to return if at all possible. The college will seem very different now and that is because the most important ingredient in the mix has undergone a huge transformation. YOU have changed. Walking on a college campus as a newly admitted applicant is a far different experience. Now you possess a sense of resolve to choose and choose wisely where you will spend the next four years of your life.
5. As you research and visit each school, go back to your original list of college factors that were important to you during your search and application phase. How does each school measure up? Are the same things important? Have some factors changed? Think carefully about the schools that have admitted you and try to picture yourself there as an active, engaged student next fall. Imagine yourself on the campus, in the classrooms and dorms, on the sports field. Talk to students who attend the school and think about reaching out to make friends with students like them. You should note that there are pros and cons to visiting during prearranged preview days. The pros are they roll the red carpet out for you…the cons are that they roll the red carpet out for you. Regardless of when you choose to visit, try to separate out the image of the school that is being projected on the big screen, from what the school actually has to offer you. Doing this successfully means finding some time to walk around and be alone, away from crowds of welcoming students and faculty and see how it feels to be in your own skin while there.
6. Finally, do something that may be foreign to you. Ask your loved ones for advice. Ask them which school they think is right for you and really listen to what they say. Chances are parents, sisters, brothers, guardians, grandparents have been paying attention to your colleges in ways that you could not. They may have insights to share and taking these perspectives into account may prove invaluable. They are also likely to be paying at least part of the bill. Weigh all the information you glean and spend a few days mulling it over. You may be surprised to find you are strongly attracted to a school you did not find as appealing last fall. And, remember something you probably heard a million times last fall…there is no perfect college and there are many colleges that are right for you.
Elizabeth LaScala, Ph.D. is an educational consultant and certified college admissions advisor. Her goal is to help students and their families understand the admissions process, research college and career options, create a customized college list and submit a strong and cohesive application. She is familiar with local high schools and has guided three daughters through the college admissions process in addition to more than 300 clients. Dr. LaScala is an active member of NACAC, WACAC, and HECA and earned a certification in College Admissions and Career Planning from University of California at Berkeley. Contact her at (925) 891-4491 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read her six-part series on applying to college at www.danvilleweekly.com.