Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Getting past disappointing Early Decision news. . .

The past six weeks have been stressful in our household--my daughter's already strenuous daily load of homework became nearly unmanageable with the addition of college applications to complete.  She's not finished yet, but several applications have been submitted and she sees light at the end of the proverbial tunnel.

Last week notifications of early decision and restricted early action admissions caused a lot of upheaval at my daughter's high school.  It seemed the large majority of those who applied early were deferred to the regular applicant pool--or denied.  It was both heartbreaking and heart-warming to watch the process of my daughter's friends sharing their news--both happy and disappointing. Her
friends were uniformly supportive of one another. . . but I'm sure the disappointment lingers for many.

How can we help seniors put the application process back into perspective and restore their sense of equilibrium and self-confidence?

I'd like to suggest two articles for both parents and students, which I'll briefly summarize below.

The first, "What it Takes,"was published in the Stanford Alumni Magazine November/December 2013 issue:  Ivan Maisel, a Stanford alum himself, investigates the  complex process of college admissions at highly selective schools like Stanford.  He outlines several causes for the exponential uptick in the numbers of applications these schools receive: 1) Thanks to publications like US News and World Report, "brand consciousness" has increased the perceived value of elite schools, 2) Electronic submission of college applications has also made it easy for students to apply to multiple schools, and 3) Highly selective schools with large endowments are able to offer very attractive financial aid to students who in the past would not apply because of cost.

Talking to Stanford Admissions Dean Rick Shaw, Maisel discovers that while 80% of applicants to Stanford are capable academically, even if only the very best students from half of U.S. high schools applied to Stanford (about 5,000 schools), Stanford could still only accept about half of those--or 2,500 students.  Shaw explains that there is no "formula" for admitting students, yet circumstances are important.  One year a tuba player might be high sought after for the school band, another year five tuba players might apply at the same time.  Stanford uses a committee system to ensure quality control and counteract individual bias; still, the volume of applications now means only one "read" of any given application is guaranteed--about 15 minutes of a committee member's time.  Wow. 

Aside from these statistics I suggest you read the article for its inclusion of the story of an alumnus whose daughter was rejected from Stanford--consequently devastating both her and him.  The alum's ability to recover from his disappointment provides an instructive example for all of us who secretly harbor the wish for our child to attend our alma mater.

The second article, "Surviving Early Decision Blues" by Rebecca Joseph appeared in the Huffington Post on December 13, 2013.  Joseph recommends several coping strategies among them:

--Parents need to work through their own grief and then help motivate their student to finish finals and continue the application process.
--Students should re-evaluate their college list and consider adding more schools.
--Parents should help their student recover his/ her sense of pride.
--Most important, parents need to help their student understand that he/she will find a good college fit--"it may not be their first choice, but it will be their best choice," Joseph assures us.

Hope you can take a short breather from the college application stress to enjoy the holidays.  But don't close down the Common Application account yet. . . .

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