Early decision results have been coming out for the past few weeks, and the regular decision deadlines for colleges and universities are fast approaching. Although some LCHS students have been lucky enough to receive good news early, for many, this is a time of intense anxiety (P.S. if you don’t agree that these students are lucky, perhaps you should have a chat with a certain Michael J. Sandel).
At this time of year, many students are plagued by thoughts like, “What if I don’t get into Harvard,” or, “Who am I kidding! Of course I’m not good enough to get into Harvard,” or, “Gosh how could I have been so idiotic to think that I could even get in to college at all!” or, “How in the world am I ever going to go to (insert post-grad plans here – Law School, Medical School, Wall Street, the moon, you name it).” Well stress be gone because I’m about to ease some of your fears.
Let’s start with that first worry, “What if I don’t get into Harvard?” To tackle this, we’ll have to understand why going to Harvard is so important. Is it because Harvard was ranked second in National Universities by the US News World Report Rankings or because basically the entire Obama family went there? If your number one concern is going to a high ranking university, you are probably either, A) a little bit misinformed about the reliability of college ranking, or B) totally self-obsessed.
If you answered B, unfortunately there’s nothing I can do to help you. However, if you answered A, you might be interested to know that although some studies have shown that attending a higher-ranking university means you’ll probably earn more, that is likely because students at higher ranking universities are, as a collective group, smarter and more motivated. But going to Harvard isn’t going to grant you that triple figures paycheck; your own efforts have to earn you that. Similarly, although Harvard students as a whole might be smart and more motivated, being rejected from Harvard doesn’t necessarily mean that you as an individual are any less smart or motivated that Harvard students. It simply means that your academic profile didn’t happen to match what Harvard was looking for. So don’t fear! You are not doomed if Harvard doesn’t accept you.
What’s more, the education you receive at highly-ranked universities might not even be all it’s cracked up to be. According to some critics like Washington Post’s Valerie Strauss, college rankings from sources like the infamous US News and World Report are pretty arbitrary because, “If you put junk in, you get junk out.” Strauss argues that, unfortunately, rankings have much more to do with which colleges have the most money than which colleges do the most for their students.
In the end, what really matters is that you go to a college (if that is part of your career plan), and that you put in the effort once you get there. No need to worry about getting in to college – there are almost 2500 4-year colleges and universities in the United States, meaning that if you want to go to college, you can certainly go one.
What’s more, approximately 100 of these schools have acceptances rates above 95 percent. In essence, college acceptance shouldn’t be your number one concern. Instead, you should focus on making the most of your college experience once you get there because that is what will really make college a meaningful experience. Much more than college ranking, what really leads to student satisfaction is “establishing a deep connection with a mentor, taking on a sustained academic project and playing a significant part in a campus organization”.
So loosen up a bit! Have fun with your friends and enjoy your high schools years, knowing that your college choice is not the be-all end-all, and that you are going to have a successful and happy life because you are you! Remember that college, and life, really, is what you make of it.
Sources for this article came from atlantic.com, nytimes.com, and washingtonpost.com