Monday, April 11, 2011

The Not-Accepted Letter

The white board that tracks my senior students’ application progress takes up an entire wall of my office. During the final weeks of March I can’t wait to add another school to the “good news” list. 

Of course, not every notice is the hoped for good news. Here’s a shout out to Emily Moscol, Assistant Dean of Admission at Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering, for a fabulous blog post regarding unwelcome college news. Portions are excerpted here, and you can read the whole text at   

“I am not going to write a blog post about how sorry we are that we couldn't take you, we had a lot of great applicants, etc. You have that letter. I know, I helped stuff the envelopes. I know what it says. I know that it stinks…

What makes me able to do this job is that I know for a fact that you are amazing. We didn't turn down anyone who wasn't. You are going to go somewhere else in September, you are going to do extremely well there, and you aren't even going to be thinking of Olin. You are going to make friends, and go to parties, and love your classes. You are going to find a club to join with likeminded people and it's going to be perfect…

You will have everything you ever wanted somewhere else. You will be living a present that is wonderful. Perfect. Like you.”

Friday, April 1, 2011

Choosing Between Great Options

Olin CollegeApril is decision month. If you applied to schools that were just right for you, you’re now choosing between several offers of admission. The choice may seem daunting, since you probably plan to spend four years of time and a large sum of money on your college education.

The first thing to remember is that there is no “perfect” school. Every option has pros and cons, and everywhere you are considering has some characteristics that make it right for you. Remember all that research and time you spent narrowing the list of places to which you would apply? Anything that made it onto your list was a good choice, which means you have no bad choices now!

Certainly affordability and your estimated debt load upon graduation may be a factor in your decision. Education is an investment in your future, so I believe that some amount of student debt is acceptable. The level of debt you feel comfortable accruing is a factor worth examining. If you hope to work at an NGO or non-profit after graduation, you might choose to be more cautious about debt than if you plan to be a doctor or an engineer.

If at all possible, visit the top three schools you are considering. Having a personal experience – sitting in on classes, eating the cafeteria food and staying overnight in a dorm – is the absolute best way to know which schools feel right. Connecting with students and professors helps clarify the school’s “personality”.

Before that moment of commitment (by May 1) you will make the right decision. After you write lists and look at the rational reasons for choosing each option, I suggest you close you eyes and take a deep breath. Most students tell me they have instinctive knowledge of what feels right. They can picture themselves at a certain place for four years.

Like almost everything in life, the more active and engaged you chose to be in the experience, the more likely it is to be positive. You will have a great four years at whichever college you pick, if you make them great!