Lawrence J. Momo is the director of college counseling at Trinity School in New York City.
When I was a senior in high school, my application for admission was rejected by the college I most wanted to attend.
I can recall my disappointment, lying on my bed staring at the mercilessly thin envelope and crying in my beer, which I could do literally because the drinking age was then 18. My mother even wrote a letter of complaint to the dean of admission, which, years later, made me look more kindly on such letters I would receive as a dean of admission myself.
I took about a day to lick my wounds, consider my other quite good options and move on to a very happy and successful college career. And occasionally, I think about what I would have missed or how I might be different had I gone to my “dream” school.
As an impressionable and unsophisticated blue-collar kid, I was susceptible to the prevailing attitudes of time and place, and the college where I enrolled had a very particular influence on me. I would have missed the fervid and fertile excitement of my college in the late ’60s that shaped the political and social views I hold today. I would have missed the curriculum my college required and its books, many of which are still dear to me. I would most likely not have chosen my profession, lived where I do or valued the same engagements. I would not have met my wife.
So, to those of you caught in the maw of distress over not getting what you want, take heart, but also take heed of the following thoughts that may help:
- Allow yourself some time (a day) to be disappointed.The emotion is appropriate and real, so don’t ignore it.
- Don’t hide. Seek out your family and friends for support; they love you no matter what and will jolly you out of this.
- Don’t take it personally. Remember that not getting in these days is not an embarrassment, just a reflection of a process that is ridiculously out of control. Their bad judgment is not your fault.
- Get back to work. If you are like most students, you have work to do in the form of other applications. Take a deep breath, roll up your sleeves and get to it. Assemble what you have written already to see if it might be useful to you elsewhere, but beware of the mistake of forcing some answer into a question it doesn’t fit. If you need to craft a fresh response, do it. Admissions officers take supplement answers very seriously.
Life is a long, profound and passionate thing, and yours will work out just fine, as clichéd as that sounds. The train you are on just hit a bump; it has not been derailed.
Most probably, you would not have looked good in the colors of that dumb college anyway.