Dear graduating senior/future college student,
First, I am so incredibly proud of you. You’ve not only endured three (almost four!) years of high school, but you’ve tackled a number of AP/IB/Honors courses, sports, extracurricular activities, AP/SAT/ACT/IB exams, hours of community service, leadership positions and perhaps much more than what I’ve listed. You’ve devoted boundless time and energy to your passions and pursuits, so give yourself a pat on the back for doing your very best in high school.
Second, it’s totally OK to feel nervous. The thought of multiple pieces of paper dropped off in your mailbox or several emails sent to your inbox determining the next four or more years of your life is daunting. Allow yourself to feel fear, anxiety or any other emotion on the spectrum. Whether you are a first-generation college student or have family members who have degrees from Ivy League institutions, your feelings toward college – negative or positive – are valid.
Third, know that you aren’t alone. Despite what my friends and family may have perceived, I felt so incredibly lonely in my struggles my senior year. I saw that my closest friends were opening acceptance letters to the nation’s most prestigious colleges, while I ended up receiving more waitlists and rejections than acceptances.
College admissions are a gamble nowadays, especially with the competition surging in recent years. In fact, the university I currently attend had about a 30 percent undergraduate acceptance rate for my class. In other words, almost 70 percent of high school seniors who applied to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo for the 2018-19 academic year were denied admission. And to make matters even scarier, the average acceptance percentages for universities across the U.S. are declining each year.
These statistics are not meant to throw you into a panic. If anything, it should encourage you if you are accepted to college!
However, I understand that the wait for admissions decisions emails and letters is excruciating. The best advice I can give to the impatient is to simply wait and to occupy yourself by enjoying the last few months of high school. It may seem like horrible advice in the moment – especially if you abhor waiting – but that’s all you can really do. I occupied my mind by blogging and spending time with friends, but you can also choose to take on a new hobby, read a new book, apply for a summer job to earn some income for college or start preparing for college by making a list of things you want to purchase for your dorm, assessing how much money you need to save for tuition/books/study abroad/etc. and applying for scholarships.
Lastly, don’t be afraid to vocalize your worries to your friends, family, teachers, counselor, etc. Maybe the idea of moving out in a few months scares the crap out of you. That’s OK – you probably have a friend or two who feel the same way. Perhaps you’re despondent about receiving your first rejection letter. That’s also fine – you probably have a teacher who’s experienced the same pain and who can empathize with you.
If there’s one lesson that college has taught me, it’s that there’s power in community. High school is no different. Seek people who can help you appease any anxieties you may have regarding college admissions. Navigating the impatience and tension that go hand-in-hand with applying to college doesn’t have to be a solo effort; remember that there are individuals in your social circle who want to help you and see you succeed, regardless of what any rejection, waitlist or acceptance letter tells you.
Good luck to all the seniors awaiting college admissions decisions! Know that the outcome of this season does not determine your value as a student or human. I’ve endured it, millions of other students have endured it and you will come out of this unscathed, going to the college or university you’re meant to attend.
It will work out – I promise!