College Decisions: Be Proud of Yourself, But Be Gracious Too!

You may be excited by your college admission news, but remember that equally talented classmates may be disappointed.

At 5 p.m. on December 15th, Tim logs into the account that he created when he applied to Early College just as he was instructed to do. He has been waiting for this moment for a long time, and he fervently hopes he will be admitted. The decision is there–and the first word he reads is Congratulations. Tim is in. He posts to social media: I did it. I am going to Early College next year!

Across town Reid has also logged into his account for the same college. However, the news isn’t promising. Reid, along with hundreds of other students, has been deferred. He and Tim are friends, and they have very similar grades and SAT scores, and are both actively involved in activities and leadership roles in their high schools and larger communities. Reid sees Tim’s message and quickly logs out of the app.

When students receive good news about the colleges of their choice, they have every right to be proud and excited, and it is only natural that they want to share that information with their friends. Likewise, when students are disappointed, they need to move on, embrace the choices they have, and be happy for their classmates–even if they perceive that their friends have fared better than they have in the college decision process.

Is this easier said than done? Here are some questions to think about:

  • How might my friend, who is just as worthy a candidate for this college as I am, be feeling about not being accepted?
  • What can I say to my friend who received disappointing news?
  • How do I hide my own disappointment and express my congratulations to my friends?

As you ponder these questions, here are some actions you might consider:

Delay posting on social media — Wait before posting (or perhaps don’t post at all) so you can see how your classmates are faring at school the next day. In your rush to post, you might appear insensitive or like a bragger.

Before posting your college acceptance on social media, take some time to reflect on how others will feel.

Don’t begrudge others’ success — It’s a red flag that you have the wrong attitude if you find yourself saying things such as “She only got in because she is a legacy,” or “His SATs weren’t that good, but his dad has connections.” Not only is it unkind to gossip in this way, but students also do not really know their classmates’ academic profiles and what they have accomplished, nor do they truly understand what a college might be seeking.

Put yourself in their shoes — One student we know found out early about her college acceptance (to a college that admits less than 10 percent of its applicants) because she received a likely letter as an athletic recruit. She elected to keep this exciting news within her family until after her classmates received their early decision (ED) notifications. “A lot of people from my school are applying there and are nervous,” said the high school senior. “I don’t want to add to their stress.”

Even if the admissions outcome wasn’t what you had hoped for or expected, the good news is that every student is likely to have many wonderful options for life after high school. After an often stressful and arduous college admissions process, it can feel good for students to leave the competition behind and support one another as they head toward graduation.

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