"Where you go is not who you'll be"

If November is the month of hope, December can be the month of despair in the college admissions world. That’s when students start to get word on their early action and early decision acceptances.   

As applications are submitted, there’s the hope and promise of a positive outcome.  Once the actual news is received, the guessing is over. There are the deferred situations where action can and should be taken and outcomes can still be affected, but if the answer is a “no” or even a “waitlist”, that can be a disappointing time, especially if the college was a top or first choice. 

I’m not going to focus this blog on that, except to say, that disappointment is natural and expected and it’s important for your teen to take the time they need. Processing through disappointment helps develop a key life skill of resilience.

What I will focus on is that ANY one of the colleges on their list that they applied to can provide them with the type of experience they want to have.  THEY get to choose their college experience, it is not dictated by the college.  

I’m a huge fan of the late great Dr. Seuss, so it is only fitting that I deliver this message in a “Seussical” rhyme I created:

Where you go is not who you’ll be

Feel free to repeat after me

Who you’ll be is created while you’re there

And you can do that anywhere!

I realize that just my saying this, even in a creative, poetic way, doesn’t make it so.  But my words are based on a Gallup-Purdue Index Study published in 2015 that identified the “Big Six” College Experiences linked to life preparedness, which are:

  • Having at least one college professor who made me excited about learning

  • Having college professor(s) who cared about me as a person

  • Having a mentor who encouraged me to pursue my goals and dreams

  • Working on a project that took a semester or more to complete

  • Having an internship or job that allowed me to apply what I was learning in the classroom

  • Being extremely active in extracurriculars and activities

In other words, each of these experiences provide the opportunity to form relationships that will not only create a successful college experience but will result in building connections that can and will impact job and career success. 

And ALL SIX of these factors can be accomplished at most ANY college.  

There is a camaraderie amongst alumni from most colleges, not just the elite ones.  People get excited and want to help those that came before them and that translates into everything from networking opportunities to getting students considered for jobs and internships. 

Being part of a sorority or fraternity at any college is something that provides a regional or national impact.  You’re not only connected to the members in your college chapter, but those chapters are within colleges across the country – thus exponentially expanding your network.

Professors have likely worked at multiple colleges in their careers, and know many people in their field. 

I’ve heard so many students say “But I deserve to get into this college after how hard I’ve worked in high school”.   And I agree. You do deserve it, you have worked hard.  But getting into a specific college is not the “prize” for all you’ve accomplished. Be proud of the work you’ve done to get into college. Your grades, your test scores, your activities, your job and your experiences are all things to be proud of. That’s the barometer of your success and is not reflected by the colleges you didn’t get into, but by the colleges you DID!!  

All of the factors listed in the study illustrate how more than ever, college is as much if not more about taking advantage of opportunities both inside and outside the classroom.  It’s about the talents, skills and strengths of the student and how they maximize their journey at the college they choose that will help them create a successful experience.