December 6, 2019. My first semester of college was wrapping up — I only had one more class in each of my courses. Finals season was approaching, so I settled down in my room to relax after a busy day. I checked Instagram, and to my surprise, 120 students had just been admitted to Pomona College’s class of 2024 via early admissions (chirp chirp!). I remember how significant this day felt when I was in that place two years ago, but amidst my post-high school life, it didn’t even occur to me that it was this time of year. Thus follows the point that I want to make: Early admissions will be a distant memory regardless of the outcome, so enjoy the present. Here are some tips on how to move forward from an early admissions decision.
1. One decision doesn’t change the past and don’t let it change the future.
Whether one college decides to accept or reject you doesn’t change all your accomplishments and hard work that has gotten you to this point. Your previous grades will not change, but future grades might take a dip if you allow early admissions to affect your mindset. Whether you were accepted, deferred or rejected, you still have an entire semester left — one-eighth of your high school experience. While being deferred or rejected often motivates you to keep working hard, it’s important to remember that being accepted is a tentative step in the door. Colleges still hold the power to rescind acceptances, so keep your grades up and to put it bluntly, don’t do anything stupid simply because it is the last few months of high school.
I personally know someone that was a part of the infamous Harvard University admissions scandal in 2017, where a group of students had their admissions rescinded from Harvard for posting inappropriate memes in a private Facebook group chat titled “Harvard memes for horny bourgeois teens.” While opinion was split on whether the administration was justified in rescinding acceptances from at least 10 students, the fact of the matter remains that none of those students are attending Harvard. A college acceptance doesn’t excuse someone from the consequences of their actions.
2. Life isn’t defined by your college decision.
Though it may not feel like it during the admissions process, there is much more to life than where you go to college. Society places an unhealthy focus on higher education as if everything you’ve been working toward will be either validated or invalidated by a college decision. Students sign up for the hardest classes and get involved with extracurriculars often with the motive to boost their resume rather than explore what is meaningful to them. This extrinsically motivated culture sets students up for more stress and potential disappointment come decision day as their time becomes an investment looking for a material pay off.
However, the idea of getting into college is probably more exciting than the reality; college is still school regardless of where you end up. There will be classes and professors at every college. More likely than not, students end up splitting hairs to make their college decision when the experience is more similar than different between schools. While the differences in environment can be significant, the best thing about college is that it is what you make of it.
3. Win or lose, stay grounded.
While college admissions shouldn’t be a game, it does feel like there are winners or losers after early admissions. Some students get into their top choice; others get deferred or rejected. If accepted, be proud of yourself — getting into college is no easy feat. However, also be mindful that most people haven’t made their college decision yet and are still going through the process, or perhaps, were just recently turned down by their top school. It doesn’t feel great to see peers celebrating their acceptance while feeling like you worked as hard as them and deserve to be celebrating too.
On the flip side, stay positive if you’ve been deferred or rejected. A deferral means something different depending on the school as some colleges defer a higher percentage of applicants than others, but it does mean that you are still in consideration. Don’t get too down on yourself as you still have a few more weeks to finish and perfect applications to other schools. The celebration may be delayed, but the moment will be just as sweet when it comes. Not to mention that a moment is just that — a moment. The joy lasts for a couple of days at most before the regular routine of the school year takes over again. Win or lose, everybody still has work to do before they graduate high school and begin college.
4. You are still amazing!
Whether you got into college already or not, you are a senior in high school. Remember when we were innocent freshmen at the bottom of the totem pole? You have made it through three and a half years of classes, drama and whatever else life threw at you. You have navigated the transition from a teenager learning about yourself to a young adult still learning about yourself. So much has already happened, and college is just one step in the journey.
Remember that college is not the only path available to students after high school. While it is the most socially acceptable and comfortable path, college is not for everyone. Perhaps you want to go to trade or technical school and master a specific skill rather than continue the typical education in a classroom. Or perhaps you want to take a gap year and work, travel and/or save money. The period after high school is one of the few liminal spaces where you can take time to experience life and learn more about yourself with fewer consequences. Early admissions are just the start of a whole life ahead of you.