Emerging Triumphant From the Admissions Process

College admissions can be a time of fear, insecurity, and pain. Essays like Suzy Lee Weiss’s “To (All) the Colleges That Rejected Me” remind us of the painful reality that rejection hurts, that “being yourself” sometimes doesn’t cut it, and that the admissions process can often churn out resentful and cynical students. When students entrust their fragile hopes to a system that can seem random, heartbreak seems inevitable. But it doesn’t have to be. The admissions process can be a time of learning more about yourself, of figuring out how to “market” yourself to others, and of getting excited about the experience you’ll have at the college you’ll eventually attend.

“Market” yourself without putting yourself “on sale”

When writing college applications, students sometimes finds that the process makes them cynical and insincere. Petri paints a vivid yet not-unrealistic scenario: “You were up until midnight writing 12 essays, variably titled things like “Why Brown Is The Only Place For Me” and “Why University of Chicago Is The One Place My Heart Yearns For.” If you aren’t a little cynical by the time it’s over, you’re extremely fortunate or not doing it right.”

It’s important to remember the difference between marketing yourself and putting yourself “on sale”. The admissions process is about marketing yourself. You have gifts, abilities, passions, interests, and academic questions that many colleges would love to have on their campus. By marketing yourself, you are working from a position of strength, saying “hey, college, I would be a great investment! You would be crazy not to accept me!” By contrast, putting yourself “on sale” has an element of desperation and insecurity that can turn colleges away. A student who sells himself operates from a position of weakness, saying “All my hope and future is in you, college; if you don’t accept me, I don’t know what I’m going to do!”

You will be marketing yourself for the rest of your life. When you apply for a job or seek a promotion or raise, you will need to learn how to show what makes you special and unique and worth the investment. There’s no better time to start than now!

Be clear about where your identity lies

If your self-worth is tied to getting into one prestigious university that has an acceptance rate in the single digits, then rejection from that university can be devastating. Rejection is always painful, but it doesn’t have to create an existential crisis. It’s helpful to remind yourself of who you are. Your identity lies in much more than your dream college. Get out a piece of paper and write down the following sentence: I am…, and then answer that sentence. Get creative. Write down everything that makes you unique and special. Then, cross out those “identities” that have a short shelf-life, or that lie in the future as hypothetical. The more your identity is centered on temporary things, the more pain you’ll feel at their expiration. If you can go through this admissions process confident in who you are apart from the admissions process, then rejection will be easier to bear and acceptance will be the icing on the cake!

Don’t lose perspective

Remember to keep the admissions process in perspective. It will end, you will most likely attend a great school, and you will put this stressful time behind you and take advantage of all that your college has to offer. After freshman year, no one asks what colleges you applied to and got rejected from; no one brags about their SAT/ACT score. Instead, everyone worth their salt will be making the most of the school they are attending.

The admissions process is the time for you to choose what amazing college experience you will have. Make up your mind that you are more than the results of your college admissions applications, that you can have an amazing college experience wherever you are at, and that rejection hurts, but that it can be helpful in teaching you more about yourself. That’s the way to emerge from the admissions process victorious.

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