If they could see her now, I think that college admissions committee might change its collective mind. It should change its mind. Poise in the face of defeat is a quality that speaks of great character, and great character should be valued in undergrads. I am profoundly proud of Emily today, and in awe of how collected she is only 24 hours after the worst rejection of her young life.
Emily did not get in to her first-choice college, where she applied early decision. It was, by a large margin, the college of her dreams. But she is not whining today. She had herself a good cry the night she heard, ate some ice cream and gummy bears, and watched a couple episodes of bad TV shows on Hulu. Today, her dream is spent, and she is a little older. But now, she is re-directing.
With the courage of a champion, she has set her cross-hairs on Plan B. If Plan A is not to be, how can she refine the remaining options? Does she need to reconsider the rest of her list? Add some choices? One of the traps of the early decision path is that you do have to commit to one school, one hope, before it commits to you. So, some measure of devastation is predictable, utterly foreseeable. And, because you have set your heart on the one, you have naturally turned your attention away from the others. Now, she must picture herself on a different campus, or assortment of campuses; a mental starting-over. But she is there. She is doing it.
Emily is not alone in her experience. We are watching her peers fall like soldiers in a bad Civil War movie — cut down in the combat of college admissions. They thought they would have a statistical advantage going for the Early Decision admission, but it looks like it’s shaping up to be a brutal year. And as the sad news from some travels, it crosses paths with the happy news of others. I hear them say, “It’s really unfair that [Ellen] got into ABC University… [Drew] really wants to go there, and she doesn’t, but she took his seat.” It is almost impossible for them to resist taking it personally, when really, it isn’t. It is all so arbitrary, but standing in the midst of it all, it doesn’t feel that way to them.
Other letters will come. (By email! Did you know that?) Other choices will emerge. Emily will go to college, and grow where she is planted. That is her nature. Still, it is hard to watch the disappointment on her face, knowing that she had every little detail of her life at her first choice college worked out. I have faith in her ability to recover from this, and know that it may even make her stronger. But like all challenges in life, the lesson to be learned on the other side of the effort can remain out of focus until you are through it. I am hopeful, even confident, that if she just hangs in there a little while longer, she will see the value of this event. And we will be here, cheering her on all the way.